Over the past few years, young divas-in-training Jane Monheit and Norah Jones have dominated the jazz charts. In fact, Jones has come so far so fast that she's crossed over to mainstream pop and multimillion sales. At long last, the hype machine's going into overdrive to promote a young male vocalist: Peter Cincotti, who's set to release his debut recording in March. But blurbs such as "eighteen and going on legend" and "a star in the making" are usually more damaging than helpful to young artists. The classic example is the kiss-of-death label "the next Dylan," a comparison that's crippled many a career.
It turns out there's plenty of substance behind Cincotti, who makes his St. Louis debut at the Sheldon on Saturday. The youngest performer ever to play New York's famed Algonquin Room, Cincotti studied with New Orleans piano legend Ellis Marsalis and earned standing ovations at the 2000 and 2001 editions of the Montreux Jazz Fest. Most important, the guy is a gifted piano player who knows his way around a lyric and is smart enough to work in a basic quartet setting with sax, bass and drums instead of burying his music in overorchestrated fluff. If Cincotti can trust his musical talent and avoid the excesses of the star-making machinery, he just may get where he wants to go.