Johnny Costa

Plays Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

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If jazzing something up means to make it more lively and more entertaining, then listeners who might run for their lives if the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood show came on might be convinced that a fine jazz pianist such as Johnny Costa could make exciting music out of the Fred Rogers songbook. But, of course, one great thing about jazz musicians is that they can improvise great music based on just about anything. And if one can get beyond prejudice against the host who constantly changes his sweater, there is indeed swinging piano trio jazz galore on this record. Costa is an old-school stylist whose fingers are big enough to suggest Art Tatum, but who seems to have become contemplative and spacy in the Red Garland mode, perhaps an influence from the Land of Make Believe. All kidding aside, the long collaboration between host and show pianist was a fruitful one, and this disc -- although obviously not the most well-known or popular part of the legacy -- will be of interest to fans of jazz piano. An interesting challenge to Costa was the decision to do such a large number of tunes, and to keep the versions in the two- to three-minute realm. Normally a jazz piano trio would play numbers about double this length. Costa has to find ways of getting his personal touch into tracks that are sometimes just extended theme statements.

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