Pianist Scott Cossu plays Traditions

Twenty-six years after he released his first album, nationally known jazz pianist Scott Cossu is still finding new territory to explore. This year, he performed for the first time with a symphony orchestra - and he released a DVD with wil dlife photographer A rt Wolfe.

Cossu, who lives in Olympia, also likes the tried and true.

On Saturday, the often-on-tour m usician will play here at home at Traditions Cafe & World Folk Art - an intimate venue he visits every year or two.

"Being a piano player, I try to find places with grand pianos," he said. "It has one. Even though the place is small, it's good for me. ... Sometimes you get nice big concert halls, but it's really impersonal."

Cossu was one of the original Windham Hill recording artists and was included on the influential new age label's 30th anniversary CD, released last year.

His songs have been included on soundtracks, including "The Chocolate War," and used as television show intros.

Now, music from his most recent album, "Emerald Pathway," is featured with Wolfe's photography on a DVD, "Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky."

"They told me that people with 50- and 60-inch TVs wanted a nice DVD with good photography and good music, and they wanted to use my music with Art Wolfe's photography," said Cossu, who makes everything he says into a pleasant little story. "I said, 'I've heard his name for y ears, but could you send me a sample of his work so I can make sure it's appropriate?'

"They sent me this 35-pound book," he said. "I'm looking through it, and my eyes are as big as they can get, and I said, 'I think we can work together.'

"I'm completely enamored about this project."

The enthusiastic musician was just as excited about his first time playing with a symphony orchestra, the Teton Chamber Orchestra in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

He performed with the symphony in March.

"The conductor of the orchestra had listened to my music when I was really thriving with Windham Hill in the late '80s, when he was a doctoral student in conducting," Cossu said. "He called me and said he would like me to be a guest.

"I was thinking maybe there was a catch," the pianist added wryly.

"We got a five-minute standing ovation," said Cossu, who'll be doing a repeat performance during the orchestra's 2007-08 season and might record with the symphony.

"That is a pretty big thing for me," he said. "I never had anything like that happen."

But whatever the subject, Cossu is unflaggingly upbeat - even about the fact that the concert circuit has become more challenging these days.

"I jokingly say now that I never would have thought 10 years ago that some of my biggest competition would be casinos and karaoke," he said with a chuckle. "When's the last time you heard of the group Steppenwolf? 'Magic Carpet Ride'? They're on the casino circuit now," Cossu said.

"If you go by the casinos, they're always packed. I never go to them, but somebody does."