By JOHN PATRICK GATTA
HOWLAND -- To the area's casual music listeners, the name Joe Augustine may be associated with his performances at the Avalon Inn and Resort -- and little else.
While the Howland resident has been a fixture there for the past 25 years, his forays within the music world extend well beyond Trumbull County.
A little research on his Web site, www.joeaugustine.com, plus an interview with the pianist revealed that his work is heard from coast to coast. With the addition of smooth jazz radio stations, digital music channels, performances, seminars and lectures outside of Ohio, Augustine is attracting a wider audience.
Overall, he's made 30 recordings. Twelve have been on nationally distributed labels including his most recent "Cool Today, Jazz Tonight," on 1201 Music label.
The album's tracks mix originals with cover tunes that are arranged to suit his piano playing style, which he described as a combination of touch, timing, technique, temperament and talent.
"The longer that I do this, the more I would rather allow the music to speak for itself," he said. "By overplaying, all you do is cloud the issue."
Since Augustine performs only instrumentals, he must create distinctive, appealing melodies. He relates that ability to his approach on the keyboard. "In order for something to be lyrical, it needs to sing. In order for it to sing, it needs breathing room."
Influences: An example of this can be heard on the new album. For his cover of the classic blues number "Fever" he explained that he based his contribution on the vocal phrasing of Shirley Horn. He also listens to everything from Latin music to artists in the jam band genre to influence the grooves within the songs.
His recording career is a combination of solo recordings to band formats. The styles move among straight jazz, smooth jazz, blues, swing and even Latin. On "Cool Today, Jazz Tonight," he recorded with drummer Chester Thompson (Genesis, Weather Report) and upright bassist Steve gsel.
Award-winning guitarist Denny Jiosa overdubbed his parts.
"I wanted to have that cool jazz sound from the '60s and '70s. I didn't want to lose that character," Augustine said. "So I hired Steve to play and Chester to bring in the contemporary feel, and I just sat in the middle and enjoyed the whole show."
As usual, Augustine played on a Steinway piano. Using that particular instrument took on a greater significance six years ago when the prestigious company designated him as one of its endorsed artists.
"In my opinion, this is my best work thus far," he said. "I really enjoyed [last year's] 'License to Groove' for what it was, and this is definitely a step up.
"On this disc, I followed my heart on all of these cuts more so than I ever have done in the past. It's never contrived when you're playing from within as opposed to trying to do something instructed by someone else."
XJoe Augustine will perform with drummer Jim Richley and bassist Tim Powell at 6:30 tonight , 7 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Avalon Inn and Resort's Tall Oaks Restaurant. Admission to the CD release party tonight is $30, including hors d'oeuvres and wine and beer bar. For reservations, call (330) 856-1900 or (330) 743-4000.