The majority of the selections on "Classic Costa" were recorded in 1990, sessions produced by Bill Hillman, Costa's avid fan. (The entire Hillman family adored Costa.) Hank O'Neal added a few tracks in 1991, and released this CD on Chiaroscuro. Included is an 8-minute track, "Jazz-speak," during which Costa summarizes his life in music.
Almost all of the 17 tunes were taken from the Great American Songbook: "Holiday for Strings," "My Funny Valentine," "The Man I Love," "It Never Entered My Mind," "Stella By Starlight," "Cherokee" and "Fascinating Rhythm." "Debbie" is a lively tune that Costa wrote to honor his daughter, Debbie (Costa) Elwood.
"Holiday for Strings" and "My Funny Valentine" are classic Costa arrangements. It is impossible to imaging any musician on any instrument playing these tunes any better. The poignant "It Never Entered My Mind" was Helen Costa's favorite tune. Married to Costa for 55 years, Helen Costa gave up an early career as a singer to be Mrs. Johnny Costa, a role that satisfied her completely. About Costa and his music, Helen Costa said: "Johnny is as beautiful a person as the music he plays."
When Peter Nero, a longtime Costa admirer, visited
Pittsburgh in 1992 to help celebrate Costa's receipt of a prestigious award
presented to the outstanding performing artist in western Pennsylvania, Nero
dedicated the same tune Costa plays on this CD to Costa, a tribute from his
heart that was shared by many members of the audience that night: "The Man
1. Holiday for Strings
2. Get Happy
3. My Funny Valentine
5. You Came a Long Way From st. Louis
6. Just One of Those Things
7. The Man I Love
8. How High the Moon
9. It Never Entered My Mind
10. At the Darktown Strutters' Ball
11. They're Not Writing
12. What Is This Thing Called Love?
14. Stella By Starlight
16. Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me
17. Fascinating Rhythm