● By Style
Photos by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
Not everybody has a personal letter of gratitude from retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, but local entertainer John Cocuzzi does.
The August 2008 letter praises Cocuzzi for his part in making a fundraising event an extraordinary evening. O’Connor writes how much jazz means to her, since jazz musicians communicate and listen to each other, which is exactly the skill lawmakers should apply when resolving important public issues. “This letter is something I’m very proud of,” Cocuzzi says.
This hip swingster moved across the country to join the Sacramento-area music scene five years ago. “California brought me lots of opportunities,” Cocuzzi explains. A talented musician and vocalist, Cocuzzi plays locally and serves as the talent coordinator and event consultant for the Sacramento Music Festival.
Ludwig van Beethoven said, “To play without passion is inexcusable.” And in a performance featuring Cocuzzi, there is no lack of passion. His deep love of music was instilled in him as a youngster. Dad, Frank, was a percussionist for the United States Marine Band, a music teacher and jazz drummer by trade; he exposed his son to music and musicians early. “I got hooked on music as a kid,” Cocuzzi explains. “I just didn’t know it.” Although his background lies in classical music, jazz is what really makes him spark. “Jazz is improvisation; I read music, but not well enough to hurt my playing,” he says.
In addition to his dad, another of Cocuzzi’s inspirations is Benny Goodman. One of the legendary band leader’s guitarists, Steve Jordan, even raves about Cocuzzi’s work. “Besides having a marvelous ear for harmony, he has a fire, enthusiasm and speed.”
Starting his musical career as a drummer, he soon conquered the piano, and then went on to become a master on the vibraphone. Also known as “vibes,” the vibraphone is a type of percussion instrument that’s played when the musician hits the instrument’s bars with mallets. (Think of a cross between drums and piano.) He was inspired to take it up by another one of his idols – jazz great Lionel Hampton. “I am also a drummer,” Cocuzzi admits, “so my percussion background helps me bring the vibraphone to life.”
Cocuzzi is currently enjoying great success from his recently released jazz CD Groove Merchant. It’s getting rave reviews and being played on radio stations around the nation. In addition, he is a featured artist on Jazzdagen Tours’ Jazz Alive 2012 Pacific Holiday Cruise. As well, his talent is available to make any occasion a special one. “My music appeals to everyone, from grandmas to grandkids,” he assures.
Cocuzzi knows the younger generation will love swing and jazz – they just need to hear it played live. “Kids don’t know they like it yet,” Cocuzzi says. Along with playing and cruising, he is a great teacher and mentor for many students who want to learn vibraphone and piano. “I was so lucky to have older musicians show me,” Cocuzzi says. “I want to pass on my knowledge to the next generation.”
Visit johncocuzzimusic.com for more information.