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The Man Behind The Mic
In another time and place, Jerry Costanzo wouldn’t be interpreting the Great American Songbook. It’s likely he’d be conceiving it.
Midwest Record deemed the luminous vocalist and bandleader “a cat that knows how to swing it and grab the Vegas vibe that most of us never were old enough to experience,” while Jazz.com raved, “As all great singers do, he tells a story.”
Raised in a musical family, Costanzo’s musical stencil was etched with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Count Basie, Mel Torme, Jerry Vale and Nat King Cole. He was playing saxophone by third grade, and developed chops as a performer studying acting at New York’s Herbert Berghof Studio. A stint as personal aid and chauffeur for Al Pacino further apprised Costanzo to the arts, before he joined his father Joseph’s big band, The Memories Of Swing, first on sax and then as the outfit’s lead vocalist.
While well into his 30s before the New Yorker recognized his calling card—bringing his musical idols back to life—Costanzo is making up for lost time. Today, the man behind the mic is a full-time troubadour and bandleader, surrounded by a Who’s Who of the jazz world.
In 2008, his debut full-length album “Destination Moon,” produced by Andy Farber and accompanied by Farber & his Swing Mavens octet, served up a dozen chestnuts, including the title track, “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” “Come Fly with Me” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” Showcasing 13 masterful musicians, the project includes tenor, baritone and alto sax, trombone, trumpet, piano, bass and drums.
“Moon” earned Costanzo a dedicated live following, with gigs including the Annual Sinatra Birthday Bash at The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, N.J., New York’s Metropolitan Room, Feinstein’s at The Loews Regency, Kitano Jazz, Small's Jazz Club and Waldorf Astoria, the Long Island, N.Y., Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, Dix Hills Performing Arts Ctr, Hofstra University’s Jon Cranford Adams Playhouse and dozens of concert series up and down the East Coast.
Costanzo’s follow-up disc, “Can’t We Be Friends”—released on Daywood Drive Records — featuring a five-piece rhythm section comprising piano, guitar, percussion, bass and vibraphone. The triptych of 10 songs, which again pays homage to musical heroes, thematically personifies Costanzo’s romantic relationships over the decades, embraced with a vibe he describes as “George Shearing meets The Nat King Cole Trio meets Milt Jackson.”
And now- Costanzo's newest release "Invitation"- Also on Daywood Drive Records, Mr. Costanzo has assembled a quartet of New York's finest musicians, including Pianist/arranger Tedd Firth, Guitarist Joe Cohn, Bassist Neal Miner and Drummer Johathan Mele, to accompany him on this latest project- features 14 songs including the title track, as well as a new single "The Loney One/Nature Boy", a medley of two Nat King Cole classic tunes. Other exciting highlights of "Invitation" include duets with two gifted performers! Multi-talented Italian singer and entertainer Giada Valenti adds her special vocal interpretation on "Little Boat (O Barquinho)", and New York's very own swingin' Champian Fulton puts her artistic spin on "Here's To The Losers". A great album by Mr. Costanzo delivers.
In an interview with All About Jazz, Costanzo was asked to conjure his dream band. He joked, “They’re all dead. I wish I’d have been in my prime in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.”
No doubt, those who have influenced the music of Jerry Costanzo would offer a collective thumbs up for skillfully preserving their legacy. He is indeed breathing new life into a venerable chapter of America’s songbook.
Chuck Taylor served as a writer and senior editor at Billboard magazine for 14 years. He has appeared on CNN, ABC’s “20/20,” VH1’s “Behind the Music,” A&E’s “Biography,” and been quoted in the New York Times, USA Today and numerous publications about music.