The Hill is alive with the sound of jazz

Colin Hancock

Cosimo Fabrizio

Two students who specialize in jazz have received honors for their musical talent and their research: Cosimo L. Fabrizio ’22, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Colin Hancock ’19, in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

Fabrizio performed on guitar at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Diane Schuur Nov. 2-3, and Hancock’s band, The Original Cornell Syncopators, is working on a record deal with Rivermont Records.

Both students attribute their initial interest to early exposure to music and falling in love with the culture and sound of jazz.

For Hancock, the music of Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong and James Deshay sparked his interest.

“When I was about 8 years old, my dad was cleaning out his old CD collection, and I noticed a couple of CDs that had this interesting looking artwork,” Hancock said. “I picked up the CDs and from the first note, it was like nothing I had ever heard before … . That was really my moment. I knew it was something I wanted to learn more about and I wanted to play this kind of music.”

Fabrizio attributes his interest in the dynamic between cultures and genres to his parent’s immigrant heritage.

“My mom is a Caribbean immigrant from Grenada, and my dad’s grandparents are Italian immigrants,” he said. “These two very different cultures coexisted in my house through music; my dad played everything from Funkadelic to Luciano Pavarotti, while my mom played Bob Marley and calypso.”

Both students have also integrated research interests into their art form.

Hancock is the founder of The Original Cornell Syncopators, a jazz group devoted to performing old-style jazz. The idea came from Cornell’s commitment to “any person … any study,” the academic history of jazz performance and Hancock’s interest in the historical progression of jazz styles.

As the 100-year anniversary of the first jazz record approached, “I pitched this idea to the head of the jazz department, Paul Merrill, about a way to honor this milestone, and he totally took the idea with open arms … . We ended up with five of us who formed the initial group.”

Fabrizio also views music as playing an interdisciplinary role with history and academics.

“My experience in the community of jazz music has manifested itself into a fascination with the intersection of art and politics, and subsequently, culture and government,” he said. “I look at the way jazz has preserved its democratic roots and see a tremendous need for these democratic qualities in American politics today.”

Both students are excited about their upcoming projects.

“We’re going to look at the impact that college bands back in the day had on American culture,” Hancock said of his record deal. “That narrative has really never been written, especially about bands at historically African-American colleges. We’re also including the Ivy League and major Midwestern schools. … The songs are going to be original pieces from the various schools all performed by us.”

Fabrizio was recently named a Davidson Fellow, winning a $25,000 scholarship for his project “21st Century Jazz Music – The Search for Authenticity.” 

“I’m never going to stop listening to music, going to support my friends who are in music, going to shows and performing myself,” he said. “It’s something that I love to do and it’s a passion of mine, and I see it continuing to be a passion of mine throughout my life.”

Catherine Gorey is a communications assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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