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Eddie Costa

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Eddie Costa
Birth name Edwin James Costa
Born August 14, 1930
Atlas, Pennsylvania, United States
Died July 28, 1962(1962-07-28) (aged 31)
New York City, New York, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, arranger
Instruments Piano, vibraphone
Years active Late 1940s–1962
Labels Coral, Dot, Josie, Verve
Associated acts Bill Evans, Tal Farlow, Sal Salvador

Edwin James "Eddie" Costa (August 14, 1930 – July 28, 1962) was an American jazz pianist, vibraphonist, composer and arranger. In 1957 he was chosen as Down Beat jazz critics' new star on piano and vibes – the first time that one artist won two categories in the same year. He became known for his percussive, driving piano style that concentrated on the lower octaves of the keyboard.

Costa had an eight-year recording career, during which he appeared on more than 100 albums; five of these were under his own leadership. As a sideman he appeared in orchestras led by Manny Albam, Gil Evans, Woody Herman and others; played in smaller groups led by a diverse range of musicians, including Tal Farlow, Coleman Hawkins, Gunther Schuller, and Phil Woods; and accompanied vocalists including Tony Bennett and Chris Connor. Costa died, aged 31, in a car accident in New York City.

Early life[edit]

Eddie Costa was born in Atlas, Pennsylvania, near Mount Carmel, in Northumberland County.[1] He was taught and influenced on piano by his older, musically trained brother, Bill, and a local piano teacher.[2] Eddie took paid jobs as a pianist from the age of 15.[2] In contrast to his piano training, he was self-taught on vibes.[3] In 1949 Costa played and toured for a few months with violinist Joe Venuti.[3][4] He then worked for his brother in New York until, in 1951, Eddie was drafted into the army.[3] During his time in the armed forces, Costa performed in Japan and Korea.[1][5] Upon release after two years, Costa again worked around the New York area, including for bands led by Kai Winding, Johnny Smith, and Don Elliott.[3][6]

Playing and recording career[edit]


In 1954 Costa made his first recordings, with guitarist Sal Salvador,[7] to whom he had been recommended by trombonist Winding.[8] The first of these sessions, in July, featured one of Costa's compositions, "Round Trip". The following year, Costa recorded a series of piano duets with John Mehegan; differences in playing style meant that several rehearsals were required to organize which pianist would be responsible for what aspects of the performances.[9]

Costa's first recording as leader was in 1956, with his trio featuring bassist Vinnie Burke and drummer Nick Stabulas. This was released under slightly differing titles by Josie Records and Jubilee Records, and was well received: critic John S. Wilson, for instance, commented on the "roaring, spitting piano solos by Eddie Costa".[10]:54 Around this time, Costa was nicknamed "The Bear" by Burke for his powerful playing.[11][12] Also in 1956, Costa and Burke joined guitarist Tal Farlow, forming a resident trio to play at the Composer, a club on West 58th Street in New York.[13] Farlow's comment on the absence of a drummer from the trio was that "Eddie's feeding, comping or whatever you want to call it was so fierce that there was no doubt at all where the time was, so I didn't miss the drums at all".[12] The trio stayed together, recording several albums under Farlow's name, until, in 1958, the Composer closed.[13] Costa was often in recording studios as a sideman around this time: he appeared on approximately 20 albums in both 1956 and 1957. These included small group settings with Herbie Mann, Oscar Pettiford, and Phil Woods, and accompanying vocalists such as Tony Bennett and Chris Connor.

In 1957 Costa was again leader, recording Eddie Costa Quintet with Woods, Art Farmer, Teddy Kotick, and Paul Motian. Their repertoire featured interpretations of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and Dave Brubeck's recent composition "In Your Own Sweet Way"; the latter focused on Costa's vibes and Farmer's muted trumpet, with Woods switching from his usual alto saxophone to the piano. The Billboard review was positive, calling it "a first rate jazz set" on which "Costa swings as ever on piano".[14] A trio appearance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival also brought Costa greater attention. Some of his playing at the festival – as a trio with Ernie Furtado (bass) and Al Beldini (drums), and as a quintet with the addition of Rolf Kühn and Dick Johnson – was released later in 1957 as part of a Verve album. Billboard commented that "Costa [...] will attract many new endorsers with the musicianship displayed".[15]


Costa's next recording as leader, this time exclusively on vibes, was 1958's Guys and Dolls Like Vibes, recorded over three sessions in January, with Bill Evans, Wendell Marshall and Motian. This album contained six songs from the show Guys and Dolls, which was familiar to listeners from the musical and film versions that had opened a few years earlier. From 1958 to 1959 Costa was with Woody Herman's band on and off,[12] including as part of a sextet.[16] Over these two years, Costa continued recording prolifically, including in orchestras led by Herman, Manny Albam (one album, A Gallery of Gershwin, included a piano quartet of Costa, the unrelated Johnny Costa, Hank Jones, and Dick Marx), Michel Legrand, and Ernie Wilkins. Costa's final recording as leader was The House of Blue Lights, a piano trio album with Marshall and Motian, in 1959. Billboard was again positive, highlighting Costa's "highly inventive and imaginative piano stylings".[17] After this, although he continued to play in clubs such as the Half Note on Hudson Street,[12] Costa concentrated mainly on studio work, on both piano and vibes, for other leaders. He was much in demand for recording sessions because of the excellence of his sight-reading and playing on both of his instruments.[1]

The quantity of studio work created a conflict between Costa's need and desire to support his family, sometimes achieved through working day and night in studios, and his belief in developing his jazz talents, which would have required playing more in clubs and dealing with the people – agents, club owners, artists and repertoire men, and so on – whose goals seldom matched those of creative musicians.[18] Notable examples of Costa's studio work from this period are being part of Gigi Gryce's final recordings as leader, appearances on Gunther Schuller's Third Stream album Jazz Abstractions, a series of small-group recordings with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, and two tracks of Shelly Manne's 2-3-4, with Costa featuring on piano for one track and vibes on the other, both with just George Duvivier and Manne.[19] Costa also contributed on vibes to Gryce's music for Fred Baker's short dance film On the Sound.[20] A long association with pianist and arranger Ralph Sharon meant that Costa was the vibraphonist in the Sharon orchestra on June 9, 1962, when it played with Bennett at Carnegie Hall. Costa's final recording session was on July 12, 1962, as part of a group assembled by saxophonist Al Cohn mainly from the Benny Goodman band that had toured the Soviet Union earlier that year.[21]

Late at night on July 28, 1962, Costa was killed in a car crash, involving no other vehicles, on New York's Westside Highway at 72nd Street.[22] He was survived by his wife and four children.[18] This loss to music was summarized years later in the liner notes to one of his recordings: "No pianist with his combination of strength, humor, and drive has developed in the sixties or seventies, and as the years go by it becomes more apparent that we lost a unique creative musician".[23] In his eight-year recording career, Costa appeared on more than 100 albums. He never recorded a solo album.[24]

Playing style[edit]

Costa's overall style allowed him to play in a great variety of settings. According to critic Alun Morgan, "his mind was never cluttered up with thoughts of stylistic divisions. He was at home with any jazz group, provided it swung and generated a feeling of happiness".[25] On piano, his "trademark sound", remarked Ken Dryden, "was the emphasis of the middle and lower registers while nearly ignoring the top two octaves".[26] Some of Costa's more linear, right-hand playing was influenced by his listening to Bud Powell records while in the army.[3] Costa's playing was more than just one-handed lines: during a period when the typical approach to jazz piano was to concentrate on right-hand solos while adding only basic left-hand support, Costa used both hands in creating his own vigorous sound.[27] His piano playing on the informally recorded album Fuerst Set is typical of his style; it was later described by critic Whitney Balliett:

Each improvisation resembled an excellent drum solo in its rhythmic intensity, pattern of beats, and elements of surprise. Costa liked to use octave chords in the left hand and single-note lines in the right, and he liked to thunder endlessly down in the lower registers of the piano. At such times, he played chords in both hands and with stunning effect. He would let loose a staccato passage and then an impossible two-handed arpeggio, or he would deliver on-the-beat or offbeat chords – seesawing them, making them into sixty-fourth notes, somehow slurring them, and developing great drive and momentum.[28]

On vibes, Costa's style was somewhat different. John S. Wilson commented in 1959 that "In contrast to the stirring forays into the lower register that he is fond of making on piano, Costa's vibraphone style is light and dancing, closer to the Red Norvo manner than most current vibists."[10]:75 After Costa's death, Alun Morgan also compared his playing on the two instruments: "As a vibraphonist Eddie carried over the pulsating elements of his piano style but also continued to employ a sensitive gradation of touch where necessary".[25]


Costa was chosen as Down Beat jazz critics' new star on piano and vibes for 1957; this was the first time that one artist had won two categories in the same year.[29] In 1962 he was invited to play at the first International Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C. by the President's Music Committee of the People to People program.[30] An indication of the esteem in which Costa was held by musicians is the caliber of those who performed at his memorial concert at The Village Gate on October 8, 1962: Cohn, Benny Golson, Zoot Sims, Charlie Byrd, Jim Hall, Mundell Lowe, Farmer, Clark Terry and Hawkins were among those who played.[31] The playing of the bands led by the last two was recorded and released as an LP.[32] Hawkins did not usually play at benefit concerts, but his feelings for Costa meant that he did what he could to make the seven-hour event a success.[33]


As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1956 Eddie Costa/Vinnie Burke Trio Josie Trio, with Vinnie Burke (bass), Nick Stabulas (drums)
1957 Eddie Costa, Mat Mathews & Don Elliott at Newport Verve Trio, with Ernie Furtado (bass), Al Beldini (drums); quintet also with Rolf Kühn (clarinet), Dick Johnson (alto sax); in concert; shared with other bands
1957 Eddie Costa Quintet Interlude Quintet, with Phil Woods (alto sax), Art Farmer (trumpet), Teddy Kotick (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1958 Guys and Dolls Like Vibes Coral/Verve Quartet, with Bill Evans (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Paul Motian (drums); Costa plays only vibes
1959 The House of Blue Lights Dot Trio, with Wendell Marshall (bass), Paul Motian (drums)

As sideman[edit]

Costa played piano, vibes, or both on the albums listed in the table below. Other recordings, where his presence is disputed or the music is classical, are not listed.

Year recorded Leader Title Label
1962 Cohn, AlAl Cohn Jazz Mission to Moscow Colpix
1962 Terry, ClarkClark Terry Clark Terry Plays the Jazz Version of All American Moodsville
1957 Pettiford, OscarOscar Pettiford Discoveries Savoy
1961 Barnes, GeorgeGeorge Barnes Guitars Galore Mercury
1961 Terry, ClarkClark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer Previously Unreleased Recordings Verve
1962 Fuller, CurtisCurtis Fuller Cabin in the Sky Impulse!
1962 Manne, ShellyShelly Manne 2-3-4 Impulse!
1960 Schuller, GuntherGunther Schuller Jazz Abstractions Atlantic
1961 Hayes, TubbyTubby Hayes The New York Sessions Columbia
1961 Evans, GilGil Evans Into the Hot Impulse!
1961 Brookmeyer, BobBob Brookmeyer Gloomy Sunday and Other Bright Moments Verve
1960 Gryce, GigiGigi Gryce Reminiscin' Mercury
1960 Paris, JackieJackie Paris Jackie Paris Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin Time
1960 Hawkins, ColemanColeman Hawkins The Hawk Swings Crown
1960 Hawkins, ColemanColeman Hawkins Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra Crown
1959 Lowe, MundellMundell Lowe TV Action Jazz! RCA Camden
1960 Lowe, MundellMundell Lowe Themes from Mr. Lucky, the Untouchables and Other TV Action Jazz RCA Camden
1961 Lowe, MundellMundell Lowe Satan in High Heels [soundtrack] Charlie Parker
1959 Piazzolla, AstorAstor Piazzolla Take Me Dancing! The Latin Rhythms of Astor Piazzolla Tico
1959 Herman, WoodyWoody Herman The Fourth Herd Jazzland
1959 Herman, WoodyWoody Herman Wild Root
1959 Herman, WoodyWoody Herman At The Round Table Forum
1959 Byrd, DonaldDonald Byrd Bamba-Samba Bossa Nova Everest
1958 Lynne, GloriaGloria Lynne Miss Gloria Lynne Everest
1958 Legrand, MichelMichel Legrand Legrand Jazz Philips
1958 Jannah, DeniseDenise Jannah Steve Allen's Songs Dot
1957 Wess, FrankFrank Wess Jazz Is Busting Out All Over Savoy
1957 Ver Planck, BillyBilly Ver Planck Dancing Jazz Savoy
1957 Ver Planck, BillyBilly Ver Planck Jazz for Playgirls Savoy
1957 Mann, HerbieHerbie Mann The Jazz We Heard Last Summer Savoy
1957 McKusick, HalHal McKusick Triple Exposure Prestige
1957 McKusick, HalHal McKusick Now's the Time Fresh Sound
1957 Mann, HerbieHerbie Mann Flute Flight Prestige
1957 Mann, HerbieHerbie Mann Yardbird Suite Savoy
1960 Cooper, SidSid Cooper Percussive Jazz Vol. 2 Audio Fidelity
1957 Hodeir, AndréAndré Hodeir Essais Savoy
1956–57 Woods, PhilPhil Woods Young Woods Fresh Sound
1957 Woods, PhilPhil Woods Bird Feathers Prestige
1956 Salvador, SalSal Salvador Frivolous Sal Bethlehem
1956–57 Salvador, SalSal Salvador Shades of Sal Salvador Bethlehem
1954 Salvador, SalSal Salvador Kenton Presents Jazz – Sal Salvador Capitol
1956 Roché, BettyBetty Roché Take The "A" Train Bethlehem
1956 Farlow, TalTal Farlow Fuerst Set Xanadu
1956 Farlow, TalTal Farlow Second Set Xanadu
1956 Farlow, TalTal Farlow Tal Norgran
1956 Farlow, TalTal Farlow The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow Verve
1957 Connor, ChrisChris Connor Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song Atlantic
1956 Connor, ChrisChris Connor A Jazz Date with Chris Connor Atlantic
1957 Bennett, TonyTony Bennett The Beat of My Heart Columbia
1962 Bennett, TonyTony Bennett Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall Columbia
1957 Bagley, DonDon Bagley Jazz on the Rocks Regent
1955 Cuozzo, MikeMike Cuozzo Mighty Mike Cuozzo Savoy
1956 Cuozzo, MikeMike Cuozzo Mike Cuozzo with the Costa-Burke Trio Jubilee
1956 Albam, MannyManny Albam The Drum Suite RCA
1957 Albam, MannyManny Albam The Blues Is Everybody's Business Coral
1957 Albam, MannyManny Albam West Side Story Coral
1958 Albam, MannyManny Albam Jazz New York Dot
1959 Albam, MannyManny Albam Something New, Something Blue Columbia
1962 Albam, MannyManny Albam Jazz Goes to the Movies Impulse!
1959 Albam, MannyManny Albam A Gallery of Gershwin Coral
1955 Mehegan, JohnJohn Mehegan A Pair of Pianos Savoy
1956 Jaspar, BobbyBobby Jaspar Bobby Jaspar Quintet Columbia
1958 Galbraith, BarryBarry Galbraith Guitar and the Wind Decca
1958 Wess, FrankFrank Wess The Spirit of Charlie Parker World Wide
1956 Socolow, FrankFrank Socolow Sounds by Socolow Bethlehem
1958 Salim, A. K.A. K. Salim Blues Suite Savoy
1956 Glamann, BettyBetty Glamann Swingin' on a Harp Mercury
1956 Mathis, JohnnyJohnny Mathis A New Sound in Popular Song Columbia
1956 Hambro, LennyLenny Hambro The Nature of Things Epic
1956 Manhattan Jazz Septette, Manhattan Jazz Septette Manhattan Jazz Septette Coral
1956 Burke, VinnieVinnie Burke The Vinnie Burke All Stars ABC-Paramount
1956 Sharon, SueSue Sharon and Ralph Sharon Mr & Mrs Jazz Bethlehem
1957 Puma, JoeJoe Puma Joe Puma Jazz Jubilee
1957 Sharon, RalphRalph Sharon Around the World in Jazz Columbia
1957 McKusick, HalHal McKusick Hal McKusick Quintet Coral
1957 Salvador, SalSal Salvador A Tribute to the Greats Bethlehem
1957 Wayne, ChuckChuck Wayne String Fever Euphoria
1957 (Various), (Various) Winner's Circle Bethlehem
1957 (Various), (Various) Tribute to Woody Herman Crown
1958 Howard, DoriDori Howard Dori Howard Sings Dot
1958 Burns, RalphRalph Burns Very Warm for Jazz Decca
1958 Farlow, TalTal Farlow This Is Tal Farlow Verve
1958 (Various), (Various) Flutin' the Bird Savoy
1958 Davis, JackieJackie Davis Most Happy Hammond Capitol
1958 Ver Planck, BillyBilly Ver Planck The Soul of Jazz World Wide
1958 Barreiro, LuisLuis Barreiro Swinging Latin Nights Blue Moon
1958 Albam, MannyManny Albam Steve's Songs Dot
1959 Apell, DaveDave Apell Alone Together Cameo
1959 King, MorganaMorgana King The Greatest Songs Ever Swung Camden
1959 Bell, AaronAaron Bell Music from 77 Sunset Strip Lion
1959 Bell, AaronAaron Bell Victory at Sea in Jazz Lion
1959 Hawkins, ColemanColeman Hawkins Bean and the Boys Phoenix
1959 Wilkins, ErnieErnie Wilkins Here Comes the Swingin' Mr. Wilkins Everest
1959 Mozian, Roger KingRoger King Mozian Spectacular Percussion MGM
1960 Wilkins, ErnieErnie Wilkins Big New Band of the '60s Everest
1960 Auletta, TedTed Auletta Exotica Cameo
1961 Mooney, HalHal Mooney Woodwinds and Percussion Mercury
1961 Goodman, BennyBenny Goodman Yale Archives Vol. 8 Musicmasters
1961 Scott, RaymondRaymond Scott Raymond Scott & the Secret 7: The Unexpected Top Rank
1961 Bennett, TonyTony Bennett My Heart Sings Columbia
1961 Green, UrbieUrbie Green The Persuasive Trombone of Urbie Green Vol.2 Command
1962 Watkins, JuliusJulius Watkins French Horns for My Lady Philips
1962 Gavin, KevinKevin Gavin Hey! This Is Kevin Gavin Charlie Parker
1962 Dolphy, EricEric Dolphy Vintage Dolphy GM
1962 Winters, JerriJerri Winters Winters Again Charlie Parker



  1. ^ a b c Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira (2007) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, p. 152. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ a b Anon. In Eddie Costa Quintet [LP liner notes]. Interlude.
  3. ^ a b c d e Korall, Burt. In Guys and Dolls Like Vibes [LP liner notes]. Coral.
  4. ^ Simon, Bill. In At Newport [LP liner notes]. Verve.
  5. ^ Atkins, E. Taylor (2001) Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan, p. 179. Duke University Press.
  6. ^ Anon. In Eddie Costa/Vinnie Burke Trio [reissued LP liner notes]. Josie (3509).
  7. ^ Vincent, Don (July 1972) "Eddie Costa" Jazz Journal.
  8. ^ MacFarland, Will. In Kenton Presents Jazz – Sal Salvador [LP liner notes]. Capitol.
  9. ^ 'UNCUS'. In A Pair of Pianos [LP liner notes]. Savoy.
  10. ^ a b Wilson, John S. (1959) The Collector's Jazz: Modern. J. B. Lippincott.
  11. ^ Simon, George T. In Mike Cuozzo with the Costa-Burke Trio [LP liner notes]. Jubilee.
  12. ^ a b c d Gitler, Ira. In Fuerst Set [LP liner notes]. Xanadu.
  13. ^ a b Mills, Eric (2002) Complete 1956 Private Recordings [CD booklet]. Definitive.
  14. ^ "Reviews and Ratings of New Albums" (July 13, 1959) Billboard, p. 28.
  15. ^ "Newport's Complete Coverage" (December 9, 1957) Billboard, p. 20.
  16. ^ "Liner Notes". (December 27, 1958) The Milwaukee Journal.
  17. ^ "Reviews and Ratings of New Albums" (October 12, 1959) Billboard, p. 30.
  18. ^ a b Nelson, Don (September 13, 1962) "Elegy for Eddie" Down Beat, pp. 13, 19.
  19. ^ Dance, Stanley. In 2-3-4 [LP liner notes]. Impulse!
  20. ^ Cohen, Noal and Fitzgerald, Michael (2002) Rat Race Blues: The Musical Life of Gigi Gryce. p. 416. Berkeley Hills.
  21. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (February 17, 1988) "Al Cohn, 62, a Jazz Saxophonist, Arranger and Partner of Zoot Sims". The New York Times.
  22. ^ "Musician Dies as Auto Overturns on West Side" (July 31, 1962) The New York Times, p. 17.
  23. ^ Rammy, Doug. In Second Set [LP liner notes]. Xanadu.
  24. ^ Riner, Matias (2005) Eddie Costa Trio Complete Recordings [CD booklet]. Lone Hill Jazz.
  25. ^ a b Morgan, Alun. In McCarthy, Albert; Morgan, Alun; Oliver, Paul; and Harrison, Max (1968) Jazz on Record: A Critical Guide to the First 50 Years: 1917–1967, p. 55. Hanover Books.
  26. ^ Dryden, Ken. "Eddie Costa: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  27. ^ Wilson, John S. (June 16, 1977) "Records: Clavier to Jazz Piano" The New York Times, p. 68.
  28. ^ Balliett, Whitney (1981) Night Creature: A Journal of Jazz, 1975–1980, p. 15. Oxford University Press.
  29. ^ Down Beat (October 31, 1957) p. 17.
  30. ^ Billboard (April 21, 1962) p. 12.
  31. ^ New York Amsterdam News (October 6, 1962) p. 22.
  32. ^ Conover, Willis. In Eddie Costa Memorial Concert [LP liner notes]. Colpix.
  33. ^ Chilton, John (1990) The Song of the Hawk: The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins, p. 343. Quartet Books.
  34. ^ "Eddie Costa Archive Project". Costa Productions. Retrieved November 18, 2013. 
  35. ^ "Eddie Costa Discography". Tony King's Jazz Homepage. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2013. 

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