Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Italian-American pianist and composer Sergio Salvatore has been called the “Marvelous Kid”. While his kindergarten mates were focusing on learning the alphabet, he was performing in public at the age of four. In 1993, when he turned 11, he took the world of jazz piano by storm, recording and releasing his first self-titled debut album: Sergio Salvatore. The CD featured 10 vibrant songs – seven of them were original tracks composed by young Salvatore himself. Two years later, Salvatore released his second album, Tune Up, which included compositions by Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker, and Chick Corea. The album led to appearances with the American Jazz Philharmonic and to performances in Japan, Italy, and Canada. It also led to performances at Carnegie Hall and the Ravinia Jazz Festival.
How did 21-year-old Salvatore get to that point?
“I grew up [in New Jersey] listening to jazz music all the time,” explained the young musician.
In a nutshell, his mother is a singer and his father is a musician who once taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. When Salvatore was two years old, his dad, Luciano established his own music school, North Jersey Music Labs, to teach piano and improvisation. It wasn’t long before Sergio became his father’s star pupil. In fact, he began composing music at the age of five.
Born in March 1981, Salvatore was highly influenced by many jazz icons, including pianist and composer Keith Jarrett who started his career with jazz legend Art Blakey. This influence was also reflected in Salvatore’s recordings and rearrangements of compositions by iconic musicians such as Chick Corea, Michael & Randy Brecker, Gary Burton, Jay Anderson, Danny Gottlieb, Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, and Grover Washington, Jr.
In 1996, I featured Salvatore for listeners of my music show in the Middle East. At the time he had become the talk of New York City after releasing his third album, Always A Beginning. The CD was an all-acoustic album selected as one of JazzTimes magazine’s favorite albums of the year. Always A Beginning, Tune Up, and the self-titled Sergio Salvatore albums propelled the teenage pianist to fame as the youngest jazz artist ever to release three albums by the age of 15. Enjoy the music in full following my Arabic narration. You will also hear acclaimed trumpeter Al Hirt in the” Down Memory Lane” segment of the show (Download here).
Salvatore now works as a software engineer. He has not recorded any new albums since 2008 when he released Dark Sand, a duet project with Greek virtuoso vibraphonist Christos Rafalides who studied music at the Berklee College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America