Thursday, February 10, 2011

Remembering Eddie Costa [1930-1962]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Phil Woods, the great alto saxophonist once said of Jazz: “A lot of people have died for this music.”

This was a somewhat less than oblique reference to the scourge of drugs that took the lives of too many young Jazz musicians all too soon.

While drugs were an indisputable source of the premature deaths of a number of Jazz musicians, another was automobile accidents.

The brilliant trumpeter Clifford Brown was lost in a fatal car crash in 1956.

In 1961, Scott LaFaro, a bassist whose intonation, ideas, and dazzling ability to get around the instrument continues to influence Jazz bassists to this day was killed in upstate New York when his car skidded off the road and hit a pole.

And then in 1962, the promising career of pianist and vibraphonist Eddie Costa was cut short due to an auto accident on the West Side Highway in New York City.

You can hear what Chris Sheridan described as a “bustling, rumbling” piano style on the audio track to the following video tribute to Eddie on which he performs Harold Arlen’s Get Happy along with bassist Vinnie Burke and drummer Nick Stabulas.

Leonard Feather described Eddie as “a hard-driving, percussive player who … employed an unusual [for the time] octave-unison style.”

As Chris Sheridan further elaborates in his insert notes to the Fresh Sounds reissue of Eddie first album on Jubilee [LP-1025, Fresh Sound FS-129]: “Get Happy is a sharply-etched example of Costa’s predilection for driving inventions played almost totally below middle C; elsewhere, the phrasing is stubbier, like necklaces of recast thematic fragments.”

If, as has been claimed, most drummers are frustrated piano players; could this "percussive" style be why I have always had an affinity for Eddie’s playing?

Whatever the reason, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember Eddie by featuring some of his music on these pages.