Some artists never receive the credit they deserve during their lifetime. Some may be go-getters with dreams of the big time, but many fly under the radar, doing their work in their own time, only allowing true aficionados or lucky, open-eared listeners into their world. Pianist Sal Mosca was definitely one of the latter, a master musician who perfected his craft and whose work has gone mostly unnoticed, until recently.
Sunnyside Records is proud to present a wonderful document and a true testament to the extraordinary talents of the great Sal Mosca, a live recording spanning two discs entitled The Talk of the Town, taken from a performance on November 14, 1992 at the highly regarded Bimhuis in Amsterdam.
Originally from Mount Vernon, New York, Mosca grew up near the jazz capital of the world, New York City. It wasn’t until after graduating from New York University, which he was able to attend with help from the G.I. Bill, that Mosca’s passion for jazz became all-consuming thus allowing his most famous musical association to begin, as he became a protégé of the legendary pianist Lennie Tristano.
Tristano’s unique take on jazz through and after bebop along with his specialized teaching methods were incredibly influential on a generation of musicians who studied with him. The pianist’s legacy lived on through his pupils, most notably saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, with whom Mosca developed long- lasting bonds, playing with Konitz from the 1950s through the 1970s and sporadically with Marsh in the 1950s and then once again in the 1980s.
Throughout his career, Mosca was proudly independent. He turned down recording deals from famous labels and producers, only releasing a handful of recordings on small labels. He also generally stayed away from the spotlight, preferring to remain at his Mt. Vernon studio where he worked and taught.
In the late 1970s, Mosca began to appear more and more frequently in the jazz world. Though he occasionally performed alongside Warne Marsh and in small ensembles, the majority of his performances were solo piano concerts, where he was able to put the full wealth of his jazz knowledge on display. It was in the solo context where Mosca was able to display his breadth as interpreter and improviser. These skills are highlighted perfectly on The Talk of the Town.
The recording was done at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam where Mosca performed in November 1992. The performance was nearly two hours without breaks and the program was a treasure trove of expertly wrought arrangements of standards, which were improvised on the spot by an extremely well-versed interpreter.
The first disc of the set contains track long versions of tunes allowing Mosca to dig into the pieces and experiment and develop within the forms. The diverse pieces include Young, Washington and Crosby’s “Ghost of a Chance,” Donaldson and Kahn’s “Love Me or Leave Me,” Bernie, Pinkard and Casey’s “Sweet Georgia Brown,” Parker’s “Donna Lee,” Wrubel and Magidson’s “Gone with the Wind,” Durham and Battle’s “Topsy,” the Gershwins’s “I Got Rhythm” and Mosca’s own “Stella’s Blues.” The variety allows Mosca to access stylistic elements from jazz’s long history, including the stride style of his favorite pianist, Teddy Wilson.
The second disc is composed mainly of medleys, the creation of which Mosca was certainly a master. The pianist was adept at recalling these pieces and at allowing one song to segue into the next. Pieces that present themselves include “Stardust,” “Dancing In the Dark,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” “I Cover the Waterfront,” “It’s the Talk of the Town,” “Somebody Loves Me,” “I Never Knew,” “Lullaby in Rhythm,” “Sweet and Lovely,” “The Man I Love,” “Groovin High,” “I’ll Remember April,” “Limehouse Blues,” “All the Things You Are,” “A Night In Tunisia,” “Yesterdays,” “Sunnyside of the Street,” “Tea for Two” and “Love for Sale.” The performance is truly an extraordinary mix of incredible pieces by the most fabulous composers of jazz’s heyday.
As Sal Mosca’s legend grows, evidence of his genius will continue to be shown via recordings he made that weren’t available during his lifetime. The collection of material presented in The Talk of the Town will stand as a wonderful introduction to some, and a valuable reminder of Mosca’s abundant skill and taste to others.