Sal Mosca

Salvatore Joseph Mosca was baptized in Mt. Vernon, New York on April 27, 1927. Sal, the son of first-generation Americans, and Dolores, his sister, grew up during the hard years of the Great Depression. Jazz music, which had been popularized in New Orleans by blacks, was quickly spreading to New York City, where it became known as Harlem. This area is home to a large number of black residents who were born during the Great Depression. Sal was a young man who could hear the music and not be distracted by the drama. Sal would go on to be a prominent figure in the Free Jazz/Cool Jazz scene. Sal was the only member of his family who wasn’t particularly musical. Sal’s parents were not musically inclined, but he does recall an uncle who could play the piano by ear. The couple did have a player piano in their home and many rolls of popular songs. These rolls featured Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and Bix Beiderbecke as well as Duke Ellington. All of these were strong influences on Sal’s childhood music. Sal’s Mt. Vernon, NY was only 20 miles away from New York City. Sal had unlimited access to a wide variety of music throughout his life. Sal claims that he was a child who watched the keys of the piano and tried to learn how to play them back. Chopin was said to have used this method to learn, but Sal wasn’t so lucky. He couldn’t, no matter how hard he tried to reverse-engineer a piece. He was trying to create sound combinations using the color scale and imitating or interpreting natural sounds, such as the passage of thunder storms. Sal claims that he knew from an early age that he wanted a career as a musician and that the piano was his instrument. Sal started piano lessons at the age of 12 from Wilbur Jessup (a Dixieland-style musician). Sal was a dedicated student right from the beginning. He insists that he did not possess any musical talent or aptitude. Only hard work and consistent practice allowed for improvement. Sal was a Duke student for two years, until Duke made Sal quit teaching music for a regular job to make ends meet. Sal was not spared this experience. Sal was a victim of the Depression in his early years and made the decision to go into a profession that would not provide enough income for his family. Sal would see major artists and financial players being exploited artistically and financially, confirming his earlier observations. Sal’s second teacher was Hal Scofield, a Broadway musician who was an expert in sight-reading and transposing. Sal was 15 years old and already had five students. He began playing in nightclubs regularly, blending his youth with a professional appearance, mustache, and sophisticated performances. Sal was drafted into the Army in 1944 at the end of World War II. Sal was assigned to the Army Band, where he quickly transposed music and became both popular as well as valuable. He was asked if band arrangements were possible, and he learned the skills through texts. He returned to Mt. Vernon in 1946. He married and began a family. He started to perform and built his teaching schedule. He also attended college with the GI Bill. Sal studied at the New York College of Music, New York University, classical music theory, Gershwin preludes and Debussy’s Claire DeLune. He studied harmony, classical conducting, music history, and classical composition with the Schillinger System. Russian mathematician, musician and mathematician Schillinger published two volumes about the mathematical foundation of musical composition. Sal studied piano with Lennie Tristano after college. Lennie is a Chicago-born pianist, who has been a major influence on the growing jazz bop style. Tristano is a jazz icon not only because of his own work, but also because his influence can be seen in the works of such artists as Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. Tristano’s use counter point and select adopted practices of contemporary classical were groundbreaking. His group was also the first to record an entirely improvised session and the first to record music called “Free Jazz”. Tristano had a huge influence on Sal. He had initially told Tristano that he wanted to be more like Art Tatum. For eight years Sal studied with Tristano. In the liner notes to Sal’s 1977 album, “Mosca Music”, Tristano said that Sal Mosca was one of the most important jazz musicians since the 1940s. The respect was obvious. Sal, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh were often together in the 1950s. They also frequently recorded or headlined together. They were also frequent guests at the Village Vanguard, a famous New York jazz club. They were Mr. Tristano’s main proteges, and they had similar artistic potential. In the years that followed, Sal was a member of every club on the Eastern seaboard. Sal declined many offers over the years that could have brought him more commercial success. Sal was a co-star with Lenny Bruce at The Den in Manhattan during the 1950s. He met many actors and celebrities. Orrin Keepnews was a jazz producer who offered Sal a record deal. He had helped musicians such as Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley to start their solo careers. Sal declined similar offers and will continue to decline them. He prefers to be independent. Sal stated that he didn’t want to be caught up in the commercial success trap. He felt it would have distracted from his teaching and kept an intimate stamp on his playing. Sal played on many important records, including “Ezz-thetic” with Miles Davis, Max Roach, and his famed collaboration with Lee Konitz in the 1950s, and Warne Mars in the 1980s. Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan were among his many notable performances. Sal is married to Stella DiGregorio and has three children. Sal and Stella split in 1965 due to the pressures of performing, teaching and creating. Sal transformed a Mt. Vernon was transformed into a music studio and apartment. In the period 1975-1980, Sal performed solo improvised concerts in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center as well as Carnage Recital Hall in New York City. He has also performed solo in Antwerp in Belgium, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Antwerp in Belgium. The CD Trickle released his Antwerp performance. His solo live performances were pure improvisation. He has contributed to more than 23 records, both solo and in groups. Due to the fact that a lot of material was recorded in the late 40s or early 50s, it is difficult to compile a complete discography. Sal’s website has a decent discography and samples of musical pieces. Sal spent most of his time teaching and perfecting his craft. Sal was a single-minded improviser who wanted to create music according to his own standards. Sal is unique in his style and his music is distinctively his. Sal believes in playing only the most authentic and honest music possible, so he gives his techniques a try in nearly every composition. Music is subjective. Hardcore jazz fans as well as those who have a deep technical understanding of the craft are usually most passionate about Sal’s music. His musical virtuosity was noted by the “Who’s Who of Jazz” and the “Grove Dictionary of Music”, as well as critics and fans alike. He has produced and recorded most of his own music to keep his independence. Sal believes that it is only the music that matters. The Wave label has early releases. Most of the recent compilations were made by Dan Fiore, who founded Zinnia Records with the sole purpose of releasing Sal Mosca material. Musicians often teach to make a living. Sal did this early in his career. There was more to teaching than money. Sal worked long hours teaching at a rate that was lower than other less committed, effective, caring instructors. Sal accepted only students who were able to follow his instruction. Many of his students don’t play the piano but want to learn about his methods for improvisation as well as his theories of music. Sal Mosca, like Tristano has become a cult figure within the jazz scene. Many of his students claim that he changed their lives through his philosophy for life and music. His recordings are a testament to his musical spirit and talent, as well as his dedication to thrift, generosity, artistic independence, and practice. Reviewers have suggested that Sal is not a Tristano clone, nor a disciple, but has evolved with an unique style and expression that is now being valued by the world. Sal was able to accept students and record, after several years of health issues. Many of his peers considered Sal to be the greatest living improvisational pianist of their generation. His latest release, Trickle, has a youthful sound that mixes technical maturity and youthful enthusiasm. Each track reflects the broad and expressive imagination of Sal, all performed in real-time. Sal’s Recital in Valhalla CD’s liner notes include a comment by Dan Fiore, long-time friend and producer. It describes Sal’s career in a simple way: “Occasionally someone is interested in Sal Mosca’s music and will ask me for a recommendation of his recording. “What’s good?” They ask. It’s all great, from his 1949 first recording to the present. Sal recently released a trio CD, Thing-ah mahjig, with Bill Chattin u0026 Don Messina. Here are several thoughtful reviews. Sal was again ill after a European concert tour in January 2007. He died on July 28, 2007, at the age 80.

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