Music News & Reviews

Jazz pianist's 'heavy mental' music

Maybe Scott Cossu should have been a comedian.

The nationally known jazz pianist, one of the original Windham Hill recording artists, is always quick with a joke.

So much so that he begins a phone conversation with a joke about scaring off telemarketers and ends it with a proud “I kept the jokes to a minimum.”

In between those, he tells a story about a radio interview in which he classified his music, but not as jazz, new age, adult contemporary or neoclassical – a few among the many terms that have been used to describe him.

“I had to come up with something to cover all bases so I jokingly came up with the title of ‘heavy mental,’ ” he said. “The interviewer said, ‘We’re starting a new section for that right now.’ ”

Whatever one calls the work, Cossu’s piano and composition skills have carried him a long way. “While Cossu draws upon his instrument’s extraordinary percussive potential, ultimately, it’s the graceful beauty of simple melodies which stay with the listener longest,” Jonathan Widran wrote for All Music Guide.

The pianist, who lives in Olympia but plays all over, will do a concert Saturday at Dockside Bistro along with drummer Steve Banks and violinist Jessica Blinn. (If you’re wondering whether Dockside has acquired a piano, the answer is no; Cossu will play an electric one.)

His latest work, “Tides Between Us,” debuted in July at number 33 on the Top 100 New Age/Ambient/World Radio/Internet Airwaves chart.

The title reflects an inspiration for the music – a liquid, flowing quality. “I try to have a lot of movement, a fluidity of the music,” he said.

It also reflects a concern with the environment that is dear to the pianist’s heart.

“I decided to dedicate this recording to cleaning up Puget Sound,” he said. “I’m donating a portion of the proceeds to the environmental group People for Puget Sound.”

“Tides Between Us” – which Cossu remembered as his 12th or maybe his 13th album, that’s not counting the many Windham Hill compilations on which he’s been included – features piano, guitar and percussion layered with cello, concert flute and bass flute.

“In the past, I’ve used cello a lot,” he said, “and on ‘Emerald Pathway,’ I featured the flutes but didn’t have the cello.

“The bass flute is an octave below the concert flute and has kind of an airy cello sound,” he said. “When you hear the bass flute and the cello together along with the piano it creates an ambience that isn’t really common.”

It also brings in a bit of that heavy mental.

“Lots of people hear the bass flute, and they go, ‘I wonder what that instrument is,’ ” he said. “That’s all you can hope for as a composer that somebody will be curious enough to wonder what they’re hearing.

“To me, that is grabbing the intellect without saying I’m grabbing the intellect.”

What: Jazz pianist Scott Cossu of Olympia, one of the original Windham Hill artists, offers an intimate concert in support of his new disc, “Tides Between Us.” Playing with him will be drummer Steve Banks and violinist Jessica Blinn.

When: From 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: Dockside Bistro, 501 Columbia St. N.W., Olympia

Tickets: Free; dinner reservations required

More information: 360-956-1928 or