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Peter Cincotti

With his new album On The Moon (Concord), rising star Peter Cincotti manages to avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump", place his unique personal stamp on a label already filthy rich with great jazz artists, and sets the stage for making him a household name in the upcoming months. The way the 21-year-old New Yorker tells it, the main reason for this is his growing confidence as a songwriter.

"I’ve been writing more of my own lyrics this year," Cincotti explained in a recent phone interview. "Writing my own lyrics changed the songwriting process toward me writing more personal songs. Because of this I’ve been approaching standards as if they were my own. It’s as though I want to erase the history of a song and create something different, while still keeping faithful to the spirit of the song."

One of those standout covers on On the Moon is a bluesy, contemporary update of the timeless Rodgers and Hart composition "Bali Ha’i", which Cincotti admitted to not being initially familiar.

"I was asked to cover a Rodgers and Hart song at a private event, so I bought a Richard Rodgers songbook and came across ‘Bali Ha’i" and basically started hearing this other arrangement. I had never connected with the original but the arrangement I was hearing in my head just seemed like a good fit for me."

The influences on that song reflect the wide array of musical styles that influence Cincotti. "When I’m home I have Eminem next to Moby next to Sting in my music collection," Cincotti said. His open ear to varied musical styles is the product of a nurturing home environment. Cincotti started taking piano lessons at the age of four. "My parents were very supportive. They never pushed me either way to find a balance between school and my piano lessons. If I didn’t practice it was because I usually was busy doing something else."

Cincotti’s jazz education came from the renowned jazz bassist David Finck at the age of fourteen. "I had some studio time with my friend Justin on drums. I asked for a bass player and was floored when David Finck walked into the studio," Cincotti laughs at the memory. "It was such a key in my learning. He was asking us if we had any charts and we just looked at each other thinking, ‘Charts?’"

Years of gigging in clubs around Manhattan honed Cincotti’s musical skills to the point where club owners were contacting record labels on his behalf. "(Legendary concert promoter) Ron Delsener set up a Monday night showcase for me and invited everyone he knew- Regis Philbin, Art Garfunkel were in the audience one night. So was Phil Ramone (producer of On The Moon," Cincotti recalled. "That led to the deal with Concord."

"(Concord) is such an artist friendly label," Cincotti added, "they never pressure their artists to record in a certain manner to sell more records. They understand that most artists couldn’t record the same things again if they tried. Life affects music."

While Cincotti is currently busy touring in support of On the Moon- including a two night stand at New York’s Lincoln Center on November 10th and 11th- his profile is set to explode this winter with the release of the Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea, directed by and starring Oscar Winner Kevin Spacey in the title role.

"I play Dick Behrke, who was Darin’s arranger," Cincotti said. "What attracted me to the film was the music. I get to play all these classic Darin songs and they’re written in different keys than I’m used to playing."

When asked if he had to study up on Darin’s life, Cincotti admitted that he didn’t need to. "I already knew a lot about him before doing the film. He led an interesting life, and was an interesting human being in addition."

Jazz Review would like to wholeheartedly thank Concord Records and Oglio PR for their assistance in arranging this interview.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Peter Cincotti
  • Subtitle: Boy Genius
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