On the moon / That’s where you’ll find me soon," Peter Cincotti sings on the title track of his latest release.
Though this couplet describes a deep romantic longing, it could double as a comment on the bounding artistic growth and career trajectory of the 21-year old pianist-singer-songwriter the New York Times calls a "proud pop-jazz throwback."
In September 2004, Concord Records released Peter’s second CD On The Moon, which debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Jazz Charts. On The Moon showcases Cincotti’s contemporary, unique and undeniably infectious twist on such classic pop and jazz standards as “I Love Paris,” “St. Louis Blues” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” as well as his own originals, including “On The Moon” and “I’d Rather Be With You.” Critics across the country gave the album rave reviews; USA Today declared Peter “a prodigiously gifted pianist and an interpretive singer of considerable charm.” This follow-up to his acclaimed 2003 self-titled debut adds another accomplishment to a resume that already looks as if it belongs to an artist twice Cincotti’s age.
Born July 11, 1983 in New York City, Peter Cincotti (pr. Sin-KOTTEE) started tinkling the keys of a toy piano when he was three years old. It was love at first C chord. "A year later I was taking lessons," Cincotti recalls. "My mother asked the teacher to let me play whatever I wanted. I was so young at the time that she didn’t want me to get turned off. So I’d have a lesson and bring in what I liked - everything from movie songs to The Phantom of the Opera to the theme of Jeopardy."
His tastes expanded further as he got older. "The first music that really hit me was Jerry Lee Lewis. I loved boogie-woogie piano playing when I was about five years old. But I was always exposed to all kinds of music. Being born and raised in Manhattan, there was so much around. My sister and I were taken to hear everything from rock concerts at Madison Square Garden to jazz clubs to Broadway shows. I always went through different musical phases through the years and had many influences. I am still experiencing this development which I hope continues for the rest of my life."
This easy style-hopping infuses On The Moon with a variety that’s missing from so much contemporary music. Of his eclectic approach, Cincotti comments, "I had so many different ideas and so many different kinds of sounds that I wanted to convey on this record. I look at each song as a story that I want to tell, or an emotion or feeling that I want to represent." There certainly is a heady mix of feelings on display, from the downtown sophisto-funk of "St. Louis Blues" and the relentlessly groovy retooling of "I Love Paris," to the crooning serenade of "Some Kind of Wonderful" and the fleet-fingered workout of "Cherokee."
While Cincotti bends the Great American Songbook into new and interesting shapes, what really gives On the Moon its creative thrust is his burgeoning talent as a songwriter. "I wanted my original songs to lead the way in choosing outside material," he says. "After I made my first record, I started writing my own lyrics, which changed the entire process of songwriting for me. The marriage between the music and the lyrics changed, and the songs became more personal. When you’re writing both music and lyrics, nothing stands in between you and your creation. You sit with your instrument and you start from nothing. What you create is completely your own, and you’re not using any kind of third party to express yourself. You’re saying what you want to say completely.
Whether it’s the seductive come-on "The Girl For Me Tonight," the lovelorn confession "I’d Rather Be With You" or the heartfelt ballad "He’s Watching," Cincotti the songwriter says what he wants to say with eloquence and heart.
Bursting with new material, he reunited with legendary producer Phil Ramone at Right Track studio in New York. Backed by an ace band, including bassist Barak Mori, drummers Mark McLean and Kenny Washington, and tenor saxophonist Scott Kreitzer, Cincotti captures an intimate, warm feel on the basic tracks.
"It was very important for me to record these songs with the musicians that I’ve been on tour with this past year," Cincotti says. "I’ve developed something I really treasure with the other musicians and I learn so much from them. We’ve all become close friends. To me, there are no better people to make a record with."
String and horn arrangers Rob Mounsey and Rob Mathes add a lush, cinematic shimmer to the proceedings, especially on "The Girl For Me Tonight" and "On The Moon." Cincotti says, "It was a privilege and an education to work with these arrangers. I was closely involved in expressing what I was hearing and they were so open-minded and willing to collaborate. It’s easy to give an arranger a chart and have them write whatever. Sometimes it’s what you want, and sometimes it isn’t. But to work with such brilliant arrangers and achieve exactly what you want is extremely fulfilling. I never experienced collaboration on this level before."
For all the sparkling arrangements, the most emotionally direct track of the set may be Cincotti’s spare version of the classic weeper "You Don’t Know Me." With its bluesy tempo and languid phrasing, it’s a nod to one of his heroes—the late Ray Charles (Peter had the opportunity to open for Ray Charles in Montreal in 2003). "He’s somebody that has influenced me on many levels," Cincotti says. "He’s one of my favorite musicians of all time, and truly a master at balancing the art of piano playing with the art of singing. It’s a very different thing than doing either separately. His singing and piano playing are so unified and I love listening to him accompany himself. Listen to the lines he plays in between his vocals and the rhythms he plays underneath. Sometimes it sounds like two different people playing. It’s not like sing, then play, then sing. There are all kinds of things that marry the two together. And that’s the art of it."
On The Moon brings Peter Cincotti a giant step closer to perfecting his own art. With its keenly observed songwriting and fresh, innovative takes on standards, it has the feel of a milestone album by an artist who’s going to be around for a long time.
Cincotti has even made an impression on Hollywood. He recently had a feature role in the Lions Gate film “ Beyond The Sea,” directed by and starring Kevin Spacey. After seeing Peter perform in London, Kevin asked him to play the part of Dick Berhke, Darin’s best friend and musical director.
Peter’s style caught the eye of men’s fashion powerhouse, Ermenegildo Zegna, which chose him to be the new face of their 2005/2006 Sartorial collection. The first collection was photographed by renowned lensman Bruce Weber; the second (for fall 2005/winter 2006) by Walter Chin.
Despite such critical accolades and worldwide media exposure, Cincotti humbly sums up his dizzy rise: "I’m so grateful that I am able to play for people who want to listen. There is so much to learn, and there's so much I want to do, and I can only hope I have the opportunity to do it all."