Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eddie the Eccentric

The line between individuality and sheer eccentricity can become mighty porous sometimes. Take the late pianist and vibraphonist Eddie Costa. If remembered only by aficionados today, Costa, judging by the myriad sessions he appears on during a brief (1956-1962) recording career, was a well-respected and in-demand player. And versatile as well; he can be found alongside giants as diverse as Coleman Hawkins and Ornette Coleman, Bill Evans and Benny Goodman, Gunther Schuller and Tony Bennett. Yet for all his adaptability, scooting blithely from mainstream dates to avant-garde projects, Costa was anything but a proficient, faceless musician.In fact, given the opportunity, exhibited here on one of his few album as a leader, he shows himself as among the most unconventional, near strange, stylists of the era.It's difficult to pin down Costas's piano influences; sometimes traces of his friend Bill Evans can be detected, other times, Monk, Tristano, Silver and Brubeck rear their heads. Antecedents are immaterial though when it comes to character-filled playing like this. Costa is no one so much as himself, a player who obviously adored risk and its unpredictable rewards. The breaks in particular are jolted by his weird sense of time, darting rhythms and those gothic rumblings in the deep bass region that became a trademark of sorts. That Costa avoids willful oddness for its own sake is the secret to his distinction. No doubt about it, he was an authentic eccentric.

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