It has been two years since the then-18-year-old Peter Cincotti made his acclaimed debut at Gotham’s intimate Algonquin Oak Room. In his two-night Rose Theater debut at Lincoln Center, facing a capacity aud, the still-boyish charm prevailed alogn with a notable blush of confidence, assurance and showbiz savvy.
As a romantic balladeer, Cincotti’s smooth baritone framed a travelogue from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s island retreat “Bali Hai” to Cole Porter’s city of light “I Love Paris” with flavorful intimacy. As a pianist, he swings with a hard, buoyant thrust, most effectively demonstrated with “Sway” and climaxing with a take on “Billy Boy” that was dotted with imaginative flourish and keenly presented improv.
His patter has become considerably more relaxed, including a description of his first apartment, In addition to movie star good looks, Cincotti possesses a warming and sincere connection with his audience. Cincotti dedicated “You Don’t Know Me” to the memory of Ray Charles, for whom he opened a few shows; more than any other song, there was a deep-seated emotional truth and real maturity in the delivery.
A goodly portion of the set was centered on Cincotti’s compositions featured in his new Concord CD, “On the Moon.” The title song of quiet desperation reveals a loser’s exile to another planet, while “He’s Watching Me” is an inspirational tome set among distant clouds in the heavens. With “The Girl for Me Tonight,” he invites a lucky woman on a trip to paradise, “the land where pleasures grow.” There is an obvious naivete at work and it’s all a little too celestial and sticky, but it’s a genuine and sincere perspective from deep in the heart of a 21-year-old composer.
Caressing each and every note and phrasing a ballad with insightful depth, the legendary Jimmy Scott opened the concert with a half-dozen trademark standards. When the 79-year-old veteran crooner sings “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “I Cried for You” there is a legacy of heartbreak and emotional candor that takes a lifetime to master. Scott still knows how to cut a path directly to the heart.