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Take Five With Jerry Costanzo

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Meet Jerry Costanzo: Jerry CostanzoBorn into a musical family, Jerry started listening to jazz at an early age. His father, Joseph Costanzo, began his music education early and taught him to play saxophone when he was in the third grade. Jerry's parents played the radio every morning and weekend he and the family would all try out their crooning abilities to the songs of Frank Sinatra, Jerry Vale, Perry Como, Nat Cole and others. Jerry learned all the classic standards through "osmosis."

After high school, Jerry studied acting at the Herbert Berghoff studio in NYC. One of his teachers was William Hickey (he went on to be nominated for best supporting actor in the film Prizzi's Honor). While he attended acting school, Jerry landed a job working for Al Pacino as his personal aid and chauffeur, where he got to rub elbows with a lot of famous people.

Around 1980, Jerry's father started a Big Band called The Memories Of Swing. Around 1985, Jerry started subbing on alto with the band. "I wouldn't say I was ever a very good saxophonist but I got by," says Jerry.

Up until then, he had been playing with the horn section in a classic rock band and did some singing. That all changed the day his father asked him if he would like to sing with the big band. Jerry was never truly happy playing rock or pop. "My heart was always in jazz and big band swing."

Jerry is now a full-time vocalist and bandleader. He has recently released his first CD, Destination Moon, and formed his own label, Semi-Quaver Jazz. Jerry leads his own big band—The Jerry Costanzo Orchestra, directed by Mike Carubia—and is working with saxophonist, arranger and producer Andy Farber and His Swing Mavens octet, as well as his smaller ensembles; Trios, Quartets, and Quintets. Jerry has also been very fortunate to be working with many of the best jazz musicians on the scene today, and continues to work with such names as Steve Ash, Ted Firth, Tardo Hammer, Neal Miner, Joe Cohn, Dave Glasser, Mike LeDonne, Jerry Weldon, Mark Sherman, Ben Wolfe, Jimmy Madison, Alvestor Garnett, Hilary Kole, Amy London, and others.

Instrument(s):

Vocalist and really bad saxophonist.

Teachers and/or influences? Joe Costanzo (my father) Teachers: Diane Marketta, Rebecca Richardson, Marion Cowings, Madilyn Kole.

Influences: My father, The American Song Book, anything big band (especially Count Basie), Nat King Cole Johnny Hartman, Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Joe Williams and Stan Getz.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I failed, or received no satisfaction in almost anything else I did in life, and I'm a "Jack Of All Trades," I've done it all! Music keeps me going. Performing, singing in front of an audience makes me feel alive. I never got that sense of fulfilment from anything else.

Your sound and approach to music: My sound is a little bit of everything I've stole from the greatest vocalists and crooners of all time (male and female). I incorporate them into my own style. My approach is to sing smooth and in tune. I'm not much of a scat singer or apply all that girly vocalise.

Your teaching approach: I don't teach. I'm too busy gigging. If I were to teach, I would tell students to listen, listen, listen and copy, copy, copy!!! Then develop your own voice and style.

Your dream band:

My dream band? They're all dead! I wish I would have been in my prime in the '30s, '40s and '50s, although, I've got to say, I'm very fortunate to be working and learning from some of the best cats on the scene today.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Worst experience: I had a private big band gig 200 miles from home, high society, high $$. The entire gig was programmed from my list of arrangements. I got to the gig and realized I left the music home. I called my wife and told her to start driving as fast as she can, then I told my roadie to drive as fast as he can toward her. They met, she relayed the cases with the music to him he rushed back to the gig. We only had to fake one tune. It was a miracle.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? I've only released one album. I'm working on my second. Stay tuned!

The first Jazz album I bought was: It was a Sonny Rollins album. I wanted to play the saxophone like that. NOT!!

I discovered my true passion was singing.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? This statement pretty much sums it up:

Dedicated to the preservation of this true American art form, Jerry Costanzo is considered one of the best and busiest singer/bandleaders on the scene today. Jerry has gained popularity among connoisseurs of this great music. He appeals to audiences young and old. His interpretations of timeless "American Standards" from the song writing greats will set the stage and carry listeners back to an era when this sultry and swinging music was the "Pop" of the day.

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