Album review: John Cocuzzi’s ‘Ding Dong Daddy’ opens door to old-time swing

John Cocuzzi’s piano playing on his newest release “Ding Dong Daddy” shows a keen understanding of traditional jazz and blues piano that succeeds in keeping the storied art alive and well in the 21st century.

Cocuzzi began as a D.C. based piano player who played in the metropolitan area for 25 years, and he has performed at festivals across the country and in Europe throughout his career. He now lives in the northern part of California and has been performing as a soloist and bandleader in the state’s capital of Sacramento.

Ding Dong Daddy“Ding Dong Daddy” is an album that does Depression-and-World-War-II Era jazz/blues/swing piano playing well, and it does it under the swift fingers of Cocuzzi, who is very true to that classic style of playing. The opening track, “Suwanee River Boogie,”confirms this much, as Cocuzzi bounces along at a lively pace with his steady left hand and playful right. “Ballin’ The Jack” teeters to-and-fro to a like a happy drunk in the middle of the afternoon and is a giddy number that he plays with confidence. Cocuzzi stretches into a long-form take on the usual three-minute boogies with “Just Call Me,” but the six-minute track really settles into a groove that Cocuzzi peppers with solos that strike hard and firm.

Cocuzzi doesn’t limit his talent to the piano, as he picks up the mallets of the vibraphone on a number of tracks, including “Ding Doug Daddy” and “Come Sunday.” The first, is a quick-step instrumental led by Cocuzzi’s agile vibraphone work, with key contributions from Dan Levinson on clarinet and Paul Keller on bass, who added perky solos. “Come Sunday” is a slow gospel/blues track that feels like getting up for church in the summer of 1921 in Chicago and Cocuzzi’s delicate playing is accentuated by Levinson’s rich tenor sax musings. Modern blues pianists are hard enough to come by in today’s music, so to hear a man who plays both piano and vibraphone is certainly a treat.

The album is something that plays like a window to the past rather than a fresh take on the music of the early 20th century. But sometimes it is nice to be placed so far back in time, as it gives you an appreciation of just how far music has evolved. It also gives you a feeling of wanting to preserve this sound and keep it protected from modern influences, like a sonic park ranger keeping the public away from relics of the past. As long as Cocuzzi is around and putting out albums like “Ding Dong Daddy,” this music should be safe and continue well into the next century.

  • John Cocuzzi
    “Ding Dong Daddy”
    Bear Family Records
    Release: April 21, 2015
    Notable Tracks: “Come Sunday,” “Just Call Me”
    Purchase: CLICK

About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. He moved to Lake Tahoe in summer 2012.

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