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June 2008

Peter Cincotti
East of Angel Town
Warner Brothers

After two solid, successful discs for Concord, young pianist and vocalist Peter Cincotti, a much-heralded Harry Connick mentee, headed out in search of greener pastures, landing himself at the distinctly less jazz-oriented Warner Music. After repeated delays, Cincotti’s Warner debut has finally arrived, and it’s evident his new label is eager to broaden his fanbase by re-casting him in the mold of, say, Justin Timberlake. The pop ghosts most obviously haunting the album are those of the young Billy Joel and even younger Elton John. Gone is the Sinatra-wannabe patina, the boyishly eager Connick-ness. Most of these 13 songs, all written or co-written by Cincotti, shape a vibrant pastiche of post-millennial American values, ably demonstrating that he has as strong an ability to speak of and for his generation as his British counterpart, Jamie Cullum.

Fortunately, again like Cullum, his musical instincts are strong and sharp enough to keep the jazz undercurrents forceful and intriguing throughout. Cincotti artfully addresses such topics as contemporary youth’s obsession with Hollywood artifice (“Angel Town”), the perverse glamorization of violence (“Make It Out Alive”), the numbing effects of over-privileged upbringings (“Broken Children”), the pressure to succeed on a grand scale (“Another Falling Star”) and the decay of core American morals and principals (“Goodbye Philadelphia”), all fueled by plenty of sexual hunger (and confusion). There are two tracks that don’t jibe with the rest, each for good reason. The sweet, misty “December Boys” was written for last year’s Australian coming-of-age film of the same name, starring Daniel Radcliffe. The other, the album-closing “Country Life,” suggests a soft, pastoral antidote to all the urban grit and angst that has preceded it.

Originally published in June 2008
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