In the wake of the smash hit 1978 revue Ain't Misbehavin', one of the strongest ideas for a successor was to build a show around the songs of Johnny Mercer. Mercer, a fancifully sprightly lyricist from Savannah, Georgia, rarely wrote his own music; one of his many talents, though, was as a tune picker. That is, he would sit patiently beside one of his many composer-collaborators while they were noodling around on the keyboard and suddenly pounce. "Wait... Play that one again." His words caught the public fancy -- such phrases as "my huckleberry friend," "one for my baby and one more for the road," "hooray for Hollywood," and the immortal "my mamma done tol' me" are prime Mercer... READ FULL ARTICLE ONLINE
John Pizzarelli has announced his new album "Midnight McCartney," slated for release September 11. The entire album is dedicated to post-Beatles Paul McCartney songs that was inspired by McCartney himself.
Guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli will release Midnight McCartney, an album of Paul McCartney covers, on Concord Records on Sept. 11. The idea for the album, which also features Pizzarelli’s wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, and pianist Larry Goldings, came from McCartney himself. According to a press release, the former Beatle suggested to Pizzarelli that he cut songs from McCartney’s canon. Pizzarelli and McCartney got to know each other when the guitarist contributed to McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom, an album of standards. Pizzarelli has dipped into this catalog before, having recorded John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles in 1996.
Silly Love Songs
My Love (includes Pizzarelli’s father Bucky on rhythm guitar)
Heart of the Country
No More Lonely Nights
Warm and Beautiful
Hi, Hi, Hi
Let 'Em In
Some People Never Know
Maybe I’m Amazed
Paul McCartney had a great idea for an album. He just needed the world-renowned guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli to make it.
“I got an idea got in my head,” McCartney wrote to Pizzarelli in late May 2014. “It might be interesting for you to do a few of my songs that are lesser known than some of the others. I realize this may be a little immodest, if not pushy.” “I imagine the songs would include post-Beatles melodies of mine like ‘Love in the Open Air’ (from the soundtrack to 1967 film The Family Way), ‘Junk,’ ‘Warm and Beautiful’ and, possibly, ‘My Valentine.’”
“My Valentine” was the one McCartney composition on his album of songs from the '30s and '40s, Kisses on the Bottom (MPL/Hear Music/Concord). Pizzarelli played guitar on the album and backed Sir Paul on a handful of prestigious live performances, including the GRAMMY Awards, MusiCares Person of the Year gala and the initial iTunes/Apple TV live broadcast. Hailed as one of the prime contemporary interpreters of the Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli has expanded his repertoire by performing the music of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Antônio Carlos Jobim and Lennon-McCartney.
McCartney concluded in his letter, “The attraction for me is lesser-known tunes done in a mellow jazz style and, if it gets some traction, maybe the album could be titled Midnight McCartney. As I said, this may tickle your fancy or you may decide these are the ramblings of a deranged composer with too much time on his hands.”
To say Pizzarelli was tickled is putting it mildly.
Pizzarelli, his wife Jessica Molaskey – co-producer of Midnight McCartney - and pianist Larry Goldings immediately went into research mode, digging through McCartney's albums of the last 45-plus years to find songs that could be re-harmonized and adapted for Pizzarelli's trademark style.
“I immediately found 'Warm and Beautiful' and 'Junk'; Larry Goldings brought in 'Waterfalls'; my wife found 'Heart of the Country',” Pizzarelli says. “We started to realize how brilliant these songs are. He's obviously a rock 'n' roller, but they were really easy to break down.
“When I did the Beatles record in 1996 (Meets the Beatles), I found you can really re-harmonize that stuff, find nice harmonies and not get too crazy. That's the challenge and the fun of the whole thing.”
Concord Records will release Midnight McCartney, Pizzarelli's 11th album for the label, on September 11, 2015.
The idea of Midnight McCartney was an easy one to warm to: A half-dozen of Pizzarelli's albums have been devoted to a single artist or style: Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, bossa nova. The title, too, captures the treatment of the songs.
“It's like the Sinatra thing – Songs for Swingin' Lovers or Moonlight Sinatra – it gives people an idea to hang their hat on,” Pizzarelli says.
The project started with Pizzarelli and Goldings making demo recordings of ballads – “My Love,” “Some People Never Know,” “Heart of the Country” and “Waterfalls” – and while Pizzarelli was touring, he would work on other songs, among the up-tempo numbers. The intensity of the sessions, Pizzarelli says, was higher than for most recordings – every musician knew that Paul McCartney would be listening to their work.
“It's amazing what the power of McCartney means to so many people,” Pizzarelli notes. “Everyone elevates their game. Not that they wouldn't play their best normally, but there was this special thing. You tell a Paul McCartney story to the string section before a take and they're saying, 'Let's make sure we get this right.' Michael McDonald, my guys, the Brazilians – the second they hear 'Paul McCartney' they get really, really excited.”
The Beatles broke up when Pizzarelli was nine years old, and his fascination with their albums lingered, particularly Abbey Road and Rubber Soul through his teen years, and their early work when he was in his 20s, which included playing the songs the Beatles covered in his own rock band in New York.
Long a McCartney fan, Pizzarelli has kept up with his work over the decades, noting a strong affinity for his albums Tug of War and Pipes of Peace.
“I always loved finding his new records and hearing what he was up to,” Pizzarelli says. “When this record came along I had a lot of fun revisiting things like Venus & Mars.”
Rather than record in New York City, they moved the operation to the Jacob Burns Film Center and Media Arts Lab in Pleasantville, N.Y.
“The beauty of the project was having a lot of time to sit and listen to these things and make sure it was right,” Pizzarelli says. “There were a lot of things we had never done before – a lot of background vocals, additional horns and handclaps. That really made it into something.”
And like most Pizzarelli records, it's a family affair: wife Jessica Molaskey co-produced the album and provides background vocals; John's father Bucky adds rhythm guitar on several tracks and a stunning solo on “Junk”; brother Martin is on bass throughout; and teenage daughter Madeline got into the act, transcribing “Warm and Beautiful” for her father to sing in a different key.
“We're McCartney fans and this is our way of letting people know these are good songs,” he says. “It's a take on the songs within a style we're comfortable with. If one became a hit, we'd be fine with playing it for the next 20 years.”
Pizzarelli offered background on his approach to the music of McCartney:
“ Silly Love Songs”
“Larry Goldings was on the road and he did a fast version of 'Silly Love Songs' with a drum machine, singing in faux-Portuguese. He sent that in as a joke and I played it for my wife and we said, 'Oh, that works.' When we put the two Brazilians on it, we freaked at how well it worked.”
“ My Love”
“My father Bucky plays rhythm guitar on a couple of things. He plays beautiful rhythm on 'My Love' and a great Freddie Green thing on 'Coming Up,' so you get that freight-train thing going in the rhythm section.”
“ Heart of the Country”
“When we started the project everyone went into song-finding mode. My wife found 'Heart of the Country,' a song I wasn't familiar with. It sets itself up to be a great little rhythmic tune.”
“Our piano player Konrad Paszkudzki came up with a Gene Harris, swinging shuffly thing for 'Coming Up.' We messed around with it on the road as kind of a soul song. I sent it to Michael McDonald and he sang the whole thing, sent it back to us and it was just a matter of plugging myself in.”
“ No More Lonely Nights”
“It's amazing how wide-ranging vocally this stuff is. My wife asked to take it down; the high stuff is too high – you have to be aware of that. On 'No More Lonely Nights' you have to start really low or else you'll end up being Barry Gibb.”
“ Warm and Beautiful”
“It set itself up to be harmonized so that it sounds like a typical wonderful ballad from the Great American Songbook. If you played it at a club, you could say 'that came out in 1952' and it would be believable.”
“Hi, Hi, Hi”
“I had that song on my iPod and I knew I couldn't sing the words so we made it work as a B.B. King-ish instrumental or even Wes Montgomery meets the blues. Then Don Sebesky put the horns on there and made it happen.”
“We did it at our first session but it was too fast. We cut it slower, then put Harry Allen and my father on it. It's a brilliant song.”
“ My Valentine”
“'My Valentine' really started this. Every time there was a break at rehearsals (for the GRAMMY week events) guitarist Anthony Wilson and I would play it as a bossa nova. At the GRAMMY rehearsal, Paul said, 'I want to hear the samba version.' When we were thinking about the project I knew I already had a vibe on that.”
“ Let 'Em In”
“That's based on a bass figure Ray Brown who used to play in a song called “Squatty Roo. ” [Bassist] Martin is the constant through the whole thing – he always knows where to put in a Ron Carter moment or where to sit on quarter notes. People gravitate toward what he's doing.”
“ Some People Never Know”
“I ran into a buddy of mine, Gary Haase, on the subway. He said, jokingly, 'Have you heard from Sir Paul lately?' As a matter of fact I had and he responded, '“Some People You Never Know” is a song you have to do.' I thank him on the record.”
“Maybe I’m Amazed”
“I think of it like a rolling prayer. I play a Sondheimian figure – the chords are the same, but we add a little more life to it with that figure. There really wasn't a lot to do harmony-wise.”
PHOTO BY BENNETT RAGLIN/GETTY IMAGES
MASTERS IN BUSINESS
By Barry Ritholtz
This week, in Masters in Business, we speak with jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli.
Pizzarelli has recorded 23 albums and appeared as a session musician or vocalist on hundreds of others. He has recorded jazz standards from the Great American Songbook and has backed or opened for Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Natalie Cole and Rosemary Clooney among others.
Our conversation discusses how jazz musicians make a living in the age of downloading and hip hop. A large part of the answer is live shows. He also is the author “ World on a String: A Musical Memoir .” Be sure to check out the two songs Pizzarelli plays toward the end of the podcast. All of the musical references, artists and songs in the interview are collected here for you to play as you listen to our conversation.
Next week, we speak with Scott Galloway, marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business and founder of L2, a digital business intelligence service.
To contact the author on this story:
Barry Ritholtz at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor on this story:
James Greiff at email@example.com
The musical equivalent of Viagra: That was John Pizzarelli’s description of “Amoroso,” the Brazilian guitarist and singer João Gilberto’s lush mid-1970s album of bossa nova love songs to which he paid tribute on Tuesday evening at Café Carlyle. Flanked by Daniel Jobim, the grandson of the genre’s pioneer, Antonio Carlos Jobim, he recreated the mood of that album, minus its soaring strings, arranged by Claus Ogerman. Around me, couples were holding hands and fervently gazing into each other’s eyes. Some cynics might relegate “Amoroso” to the category of make-out music, but even within that category it has singularly cosmic dimension.
Although the beautiful concert had its lively moments, for the most part it found Mr. Pizzarelli in an uncharacteristically introspective mode as he and Mr. Jobim, wearing a Panama hat, murmured bossa nova classics by his grandfather that included “How Insensitive,” “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” and the inevitable “Girl From Ipanema.” The ensemble included Helio Alves on piano; Duduka DaFonseca on drums; and Martin Pizzarelli, Mr. Pizzarelli’s younger brother, on bass.
The concert was a reminder of how much more feeling a singer can convey in a soft voice than when shouting, unless what’s being expressed is rage. A section of the evening was devoted to ballads from the 1967 album “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim” in which Sinatra adopted a tender, vulnerable tone that was a radical departure for him during his feisty, swinging years. It made for what many Sinatra-philes believe to be his last indisputable masterwork.
Mr. Pizzarelli and Mr. Jobim talked about the importance of that album in certifying the composer’s reputation both in Brazil and internationally. It came into being with a surprise phone call from Sinatra, who reached Antonio Carlos Jobim in Brazil at a bar he frequented.
Some wonderful pairings included “If You Never Come to Me” and “Change Partners,” and “I Remember” and “Waters of March,” to which the composer wrote both the Portuguese and English lyrics. Mr. Pizzarelli’s spicy original song, “Soares Samba,” in which he scatted along with his own guitar, provided a thrilling change of pace at a perfect moment.
John Pizzarelli is at Café Carlyle through May 2, 35 East 76th Street, Manhattan; 212-744-1600, thecarlyle.com.
John Pizzarelli Salutes Johnny Mercer (Live) - REVIEW
John Pizzarelli knows lyricist Johnny Mercer’s timeless compositions inside out. He’s recorded them on various albums and was a cast member of the 1997 Broadway musical Dream, which saluted Mercer’s music.
Mercer Street, released digitally via Pizzarelli’s own Deluxe Sounds label, samples Mercer tunes, both standards and obscurities, from the 1930s to the ’60s. He recorded it live at Birdland in 2014 with his quartet, his Moll seven-string Pizzarelli Model II model, and the Swing 7 horn section. The arrangements come from Don Sebesky, who’s worked with Pizzarelli before (and with Wes Montgomery decades ago).
On “I Got Out Of Bed On The Right Side” and “Goody Goody,” Pizzarelli offers the usual Bensonesque scat-guitar solos. “Dearly Beloved” features a crisp, single-string break. He comps as flawlessly as his dad, Bucky, on “Accentuate The Positive,” “Skylark,” and “Too Marvelous For Words.”
Pizzarelli sings Mercer’s Academy Award-winning movie tunes as a medley, accompanied only by his guitar. Lesser-known gems like the swing-era “Jamboree Jones” and “Slue Foot” also get their due. While “Something’s Gotta Give” features driving single-string work, his solo on “Emily” is a model of brevity and eloquence.
This self-produced labor of love allows Pizzarelli to explore music close to his heart – vocally and instrumentally.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’15 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.
Posted By Tulis McCall on Apr 23, 2015
Five Stars *****
John Pizzarelli believes that life should be easy. And he works damn hard to make it that way. “Tonight we are the flying Wallenda’s of Jazz,” he whispers to no one on the way to the stage. He is gracious, accommodating and talented. Walking on water is coming any minute. He even announces himself when he is performing at the Café Carlyle because, hey, isn’t that the easiest way to start a show? Of course.
And easy is the way you want it when Pizzarelli is sharing the stage with Daniel Jobim (yeah THAT Jobim) for Strictly Bossa Nova II now in residence at the Carlyle through May 2. They are in the company of equally fine musicians: Martin Pizzarelli on Bass, Daduka Dafonseca (say that three times fast), whose given name is Eduardo, but this nickname is so much better, on Drums and Helio Alves on Piano... READ MORE
John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey at the Café Carlyle
By STEPHEN HOLDENOCT. 31, 2014
Of how many nightclub acts could you say that you experienced two rich, full lifetimes in the course of 70 minutes? The ability to infuse pop and jazz with a Chekhovian wisdom about life’s ups and downs is the special gift of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey, long-married musical partners whose work gets deeper each year. When these musical opposites combine forces, the whole they embody is much greater than the sum of its two equally formidable parts. And at the opening-night performance of their new show, “Grownup Songs,” at Café Carlyle on Tuesday, they hit a new peak.
At this point in his career, Mr. Pizzarelli could easily coast on the tried-and-true stage persona of a happy-go-lucky extrovert, spreading joy with his jet-propelled vocal scatting in unison with his guitar. One of the many high points of “Grownup Songs” is that he broke out of that mold with a reflective, intricately textured instrumental rendition of “How High the Moon.”
Ms. Molaskey is an interpreter whose acute attunement to the subtext of lyrics, which she imbues with a subtle rhythmic buoyancy, lends songs, especially those of Stephen Sondheim, the depth of great short stories. She’s an instinctive truth-teller. And when she and her husband engaged in a hers-and-his musical conversation, like “The Little Things You Do Together,” from “Company,” which opened the show, the distance between the performers and their audience seemed to melt away, and you had the sense of being privy to a couples counseling session elevated into a philosophical discourse.
The couple outdid themselves in choosing inspired song matches that mirrored the differences in their personalities. Adam Guettel’s introspective “Dividing Day” (from “The Light in the Piazza”), linked with Billy Joel’s “Lullaby,” became a dialogue about thinking versus feeling, torment versus tenderness.
In a coupling of “Remember” (from “A Little Night Music”) and “The Road You Didn’t Take” (from “Follies”), nostalgia vied with a world-weary knowledge of impending mortality and a sense of accelerating time in which Mr. Pizzarelli’s usual lightheartedness gave way to a deeper sense of foreboding. Over the years, his crooning has grown quieter and more thoughtful.
The show’s final number paired Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings” with Jonathan Larson’s more sophisticated metric “Seasons of Love,” from “Rent,” in which every precious moment of a life is accounted for.
With the exception of the Bud Powell composition “Parisian Thoroughfare,” made famous by Clifford Brown and Max Roach, the band maintained a lower than usual profile. But the impeccable contributions of Kevin Kanner on drums; Mr. Pizzarelli’s younger brother, Martin, on double bass; and Konrad Paszkudzki on piano lent the evening an extra musical dimension. In a phrase, this was it.
A Conversation with John Pizzarelli
For a father and son team who has performed together for more than 33 years, you might think that Bucky and John Pizzarelli would have seen it all. Between them, they’ve certainly played with almost everyone who’s anyone, from Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra, to James Taylor and Paul McCartney. Despite the heavy names they’ve rubbed elbows with, John says that playing with Bucky is always something special. These two jazz guitar giants make it look easy, and leave their audiences convinced that it must be genetics—or perhaps something in the New Jersey water—which allows such great talent to bloom in one family. The pair will be performing in St. Louis at Jazz at the Bistro on December 18 to 21, with two sets each night at 7:30 and 9:30. Last week, John made time in his busy schedule to talk with us about performing with Bucky, his recent and current projects, and of course, his favorite St. Louis eateries.
Pizzarelli and Molaskey, Together Onstage and Off
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Published: October 31, 2013
photo by Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
“Children and Art,” John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey’s wonderful new show at the Café Carlyle, isn’t just the title of a Stephen Sondheim song from “Sunday in the Park With George.” This reflection on what matters most is paired with “Children Will Listen,” from “Into the Woods,” to make a sweeping reflection on the rewards and stresses of balancing the roles of parent and artist by musicians who are married with two children. Both songs address personal responsibility for that which we create and leave behind: “Careful the things you say/Children will listen.”
Mr. Pizzarelli, a jazz guitarist and crooner, and Ms. Molaskey, a hybrid of Broadway and jazz baby whose penetrating psychological radar locates the truth of a song lyric wherever it leads, have been married for 15 years and recently renewed their vows. Their satisfaction — and perhaps their amazement — at having stayed the course echoed through Tuesday’s opening-night performance in which two new young band members, the pianist Konrad Paszkudzki and the drummer Kevin Kanner, (replacing Larry Fuller and Tony Tedesco) joined the group. Martin Pizzarelli, John’s younger brother, remains on bass.
Although the revised ensemble has more percussive edge, what is lost is considerable. Mr. Fuller and Ray Kennedy, his predecessor on piano, brought a high polish and astonishing technical virtuosity to arrangements that showcased the group as world-class musical unit. Their replacements, though competent, are far from the best of the best.
What matters above all is the couple’s musical and personal chemistry in which each stretches to accommodate the other. Although Mr. Pizzarelli is happiest scatting in unison with his jet-propelled guitar, his quiet crooning in duets with Ms. Molaskey brings out an undertone of dreaminess in this supreme musical extrovert.
Ms. Molaskey is an expert at outfitting tricky tunes by the jazz pianist Horace Silver with smart, complicated lyrics that use the staccato, multisyllable language of bebop as a platform for witty, emotionally charged streams of consciousness.
A running theme of all their shows is the delight and sometimes the anxiety of seeing yourself through the eyes of your partner. It found its most rhapsodic expression on Tuesday in the pairing of “I Only Have Eyes for You” and “It Amazes Me,” sung with such quiet intensity that it sounded almost like pillow talk.
John Pizzarelli Quartet
Jul 05, 2013
A natural lightness, grace, joy, good temper, and an absolute peace of mind would best depict the first Prague appearance of an American guitar player and singer John Pizzarelli with his quartet.
This was a Proms top of the bill and a very much smooth-going concert. Great arrangements ranging from Gershwin and Ellington to the Beatles and Neil Young were excellently played. Besides singing, scatting and playing the guitar, charismatic and relaxed John Pizzarelli was entertaining the audience with stories about Sinatra and McCartney. Prague Proms concert proved that John Pizzarelli is one of the most formidable singers on the world jazz scene.
January 21, 2013 10:31 am
By Rich Kienzle
"I held off the hockey season just long enough for us to play," singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli said, joking about the recently ended NHL lockout early into his sold-out Friday Manchester Craftsmen's Guild concert.
Mr. Pizzarelli and his quartet -- younger brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, pianist Larry Fuller and drummer Tony Tedesco -- performed 13 tunes. Most were from his Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington tribute albums and from "Double Exposure," his recent album of rock tunes either mashed up with jazz standards or given classic jazz arrangements.
After opening with a vigorous "How About You" followed by "You Make Me Feel So Young," he shifted into a blistering "Just You, Just Me."
A master raconteur, he joked about recording with "a member of Wings," relating his role as rhythm guitarist on "Kisses On the Bottom," Paul McCartney's recent album of vintage pop standards. He followed by reprising a tune from the album: the 1940 Ink Spots ballad "We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)," its sublime arrangement literally time-traveling to the '40s.
Kicking off the "Double Exposure" segment with a rocking "Ruby Baby," Mr. Pizzarelli told colorful tales of his dad, still-active 87-year-old jazz icon Bucky Pizzarelli, who'd played on Dion's 1963 hit version of "Ruby" as a Manhattan studio guitarist.
He continued the "Exposure" combinations with a stately, plaintive rendering of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," seasoned with bits of "Shine On Harvest Moon."
All Mr. Pizzarelli's guitar solos were sharp and concise, but he caught fire on the Allman Brothers' "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," arranged to honor guitarist Wes Montgomery's "Four On Six." At one point he and Mr. Fuller played harmony lines echoing the famous Duane Allman-Dicky Betts twin lead guitars.
An elegant mash-up of Tom Waits' "Drunk On the Moon" and Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life," led into the Beatles' "I Feel Fine," fused with trumpeter Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder."
Granted, Mr. Pizzarelli is the star. Mr. Fuller, however, generates his own incandescence with riveting solos that summarize the history of jazz piano, from Count Basie and Fats Waller to George Shearing, Erroll Garner, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson. Mr. Tedesco and Martin Pizzarelli constitute a solid, intuitive rhythm section capable of subtlety, drive and anything else required.
They briefly left the stage as Mr. Pizzarelli explained his and his dad's instrument of choice: the seven-string guitar (a guitar with an added low A string) before playing an old-school solo on Mr. Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me." The musicians returned for an Ellingtonian mash-up, playing "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" as Mr. Pizzarelli sang "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and closed with another Ellington standard: "In A Mellow Tone." The encore: a Nat "King" Cole-inspired "It's Only A Paper Moon."
Mr. Pizzarelli is both jazz virtuoso and a skilled interpreter of the Great American Songbook. What sets him apart are his skills as an entertainer and a firm belief the Songbook is an ever-evolving work in progress. In demonstrating all those assets -- and more -- he and his associates left the MCG audience more than satisfied.
Rich Kienzle is a music historian who writes the Get Rhythm blog at post-gazette.com.
First Published January 21, 2013 10:31 am
Click here to watch the video.
By Dan Emerson
Special to the Pioneer Press
Guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli, who opened a two-night stand at the Dakota jazz club Wednesday, Dec. 12, may be achieving some semi-historic musical "firsts" with his newly-released CD, "Double Exposure."
He is probably the first performer to combine jazz guitar great Wes Montgomery's blazing bebop tune "4 on 6" with the old Allman Brothers' instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." His opening set at the Dakota featured that unlikely hybrid, along with another example of Pizzarelli's inventive cross-pollination: Tom Waits' relatively obscure, cocktail-noir tune "Drunk on the Moon," blended with Billy Strayhorn's classic jazz ballad "Lush Life."
New Jerseyan Pizzarelli made both of those genre-blending mash-ups sound completely natural. Those and others from the new CD don't seem at all like gimmicks, but a natural outgrowth of Pizzarelli's formative musical influences: a combination of the rock and pop tunes he heard on the radio growing up in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, and the swing-era jazz he learned from his father, the great seven-string guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.
The set also included a number of jazz standards, starting with the quartet's unfailingly swinging version of "If Dreams Come True," which John Pizzarelli recorded a few years back with the late pianist George Shearing.
After Pizzarelli slipped in a plug for his nationally syndicated, public radio show, he led the combo through an uptempo rendition of one of the "most standard" of all standards, Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." They infused the tune with bebop insouciance, as Pizzarelli scatted several choruses in unison with his guitar solo.
With drummer Tony Tedesco and bassist Martin Pizzarelli setting the pace, the tune transitioned into a blues shuffle for several bars before switching back to swing.
Pizzarelli followed that with "We Three," a relatively obscure Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra hit from the 1940s, which Pizzarelli recently recorded with Paul McCartney. He also featured a jazzed-up rendition of the Dion and the Belmonts smash "Ruby Baby" -- noting that his father played guitar on the original, rock 'n' roll version.
Then the band laid out while Pizzarelli played a solo rendition of Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me," featuring a nice chord-melody arrangement.
More Ellington classics followed, with a propulsively swinging version of "In A Mellow Tone" (spiced up by pianist Larry Fuller's Count Basie-style licks) and "In My Solitude," one of Ellington's most beautiful ballads.
Fuller is the quartet's "secret weapon," the masterful pianist was formerly part of the great bassist Ray Brown's fabled trio.
Pizzarelli's guitar solo on "Solitude" featured some next-to-the-bridge picking in the style of another great East Coast guitarist, the late Tal Farlow.
The quartet's set closer, "C Jam Blues," provided a showcase for Fuller's stride-boogie-woogie work on the piano.
Pizzarelli and his quartet will perform again at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis at 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday.
Dan Emerson is a freelance writer and musician in Minneapolis.
On this release veteran singer/guitarist John Pizzarelli pairs modern songwriters with classic styles to create a seamless set of tasteful, expert jazz.
Backed by his skilled touring combo with special guests including a four-piece horn section, Pizzarelli moves from the Great American Songbook to a new jazz literature derived from contemporary pop, Americana, rock and soul. Now, instead of Kern, Porter and Berlin, we get Dion, the Allman Brothers, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Neil Young and Elvis Costello grooving in classic jazz arrangements.
The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” gets a Lee Morgan “Sidewinder” bounce, James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam” takes on a Joe Henderson bop via Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and Seals & Crofts’ “Diamond Girl” goes all “Kind of Blue” moody.
The playing is elegant and swinging, and the musical blends work, creating a classy jazz for the 21st century.
– Eric Feber, The Pilot
posted by Li Robbins
Guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader John Pizzarellihas played the Montreal International Jazz Festival many times. He’s what you could call a regular. So it seemed the natural thing to ask him about his relationship with the city.
Pizzarelli, if you don’t know his work, can be credited with helping popularize jazz, in part through projects like his latest,Double Exposure, which mashes up the pop music of his youth in the 1960s and ‘70s with jazz. For example, Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” and the Beatles' “I Feel Fine”, which you can hear in this behind-the-scenes take, below, on Double Exposure.
Watch it then read on to find out what Pizzarelli thinks about bagels, his command of French and which movie star Montreal most resembles, among other things.
Q: What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had at the Montreal Jazz Festival?
A: Well, the first night, the first time at the Club Soda was amazing. Twenty years ago. It was so unexpected. I think the other two would be the Beatles concert and the bossa nova concert. They were all amazing. The energy of the Place des Arts is incredible. Then again, 1994 at The Spectrum (RIP) with my trio was pretty good, too. I got to meet Pat Metheny in 1992 at The Spectrum and he said he had heard how well we were doing at the Club Soda before I got to say anything to him. That was pretty crazy.
Q: How’s your French?
A: My French is very high school, if you will. Ou est Sylvie? Au lycée. Claude est la? Non, il est au zoo. I do have a few concert-ready phrases, but nothing terrific.
Q: Montreal bagels vs. New York bagels: go ahead, make your case!
A: Are there any bagels other than N.Y. bagels? I have an extra day [at the festival] this year, which means an extra morning, and will let Montreal make its case for their bagels, OK?
Q: Favourite Montreal night spots or restaurants/bars?
A: The easy winners are Le Latini and Gibbys. They are perennials and hold wonderful memories of my first trips to Montreal. I had a great Chinese meal after a concert with the band in Chinatown that was great. Twenty years ago, I took the Nat Raider band out to an Italian dinner in midtown which began around midnight and ended around 3:30. Amazing. Also, during that run we went to L'Express a lot post gig. I am a bit of a foodie and I watch a lot of the cooking network. Should I make my way to Garde Manger? Le Bremner? WillChuck let me in?
Q: Where would you go in the city for some quiet time?
A: The old town seems very lovely and peaceful to me. I don't get to walk around a lot, but walks back from Gibbys have always been enjoyable. I know, I am a tourist.
Q: Poutine – are you a fan?
A: Haven't experienced them. Your suggestions here, or leave them at the hotel.
[Editor’s note: A publicist for the Montreal International Jazz Festival assures us he will introduce John Pizzarelli to poutine. Then, whether or not he likes it, he will at least understand they aren’t a “them.”)
Q: Who are your Montreal heroes?
A: The people of Montreal have been so supportive. I would imagine any Montreal Canadien hockey player. When they come to NYC with those beautiful sweaters it's always a great hockey original six moment. What about Jean Beliveau orMaurice Richard? Hockey heroes are the best!
Q: If Montreal were a movie star, who would the city be?
A: Charlize Theron.
Q: What advice would you give to first-time Montreal jazz festival-goers?
A: Take your time and soak it all in and remember that the best music can be on a street corner for free, not just the obvious great acts in the big room.
by John Pizzarelli, Joseph Cosgriff
John's funny and heartwarming book continues to receive raves from critics and fans alike. With individual early chapters devoted to Bucky Pizzarelli, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney, World on a String goes on to describe John's exciting later-career collaborations with James Taylor and Paul McCartney. He also touches on his Broadway debut in 1997, as well as his work on the mound in Central Park's Broadway Show League. The book even manages to sneak in his mom's recipe for eggplant.
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