Reeling in the years

John Pizzarelli keeps jazz moving on
By JIM MACNIE  |  February 25, 2010

MUSIC_Pizzarelli_main 
EMBRACING THE WONDER OF IT ALL Pizzarelli.

Call John Pizzarelli a mensch — he's smart, chatty, and a hot ticket. Hell of a guitarist, too. Jazz fans already know that. Following in his esteemed dad Bucky's six-string footsteps, Pizzarelli is known for his dazzling dexterity — dude's got mucho chops. A couple of decades ago he added the designation "vocalist" to his resume, and his career made a mega-leap. These days Pizz is a high-vis showman, with a string of venues that stretches from European jazz festivals to New York's chi-chi Café Carlyle to a charming radio program he shares with his wife, the actress and singer Jessica Molaskey. Five bucks says you'll also recognize him from the ubiquitous commercial for Foxwoods, featuring "The Wonder of It All."

Pizzarelli's visit to the Rhode Island Center for Performing Arts (aka the refurbished Park Cinema) finds him celebrating Rockin' In Rhythm: A Tribute To Duke Ellington (Telarc). Like his previous nods to Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Joao Gilberto, and the Beatles, it's a sweet blend of swing and pop that illustrates just how versatile the maestro's songbook is. "C Jam Blues" features a four-man horn section (which will be with him in Cranston), "Love Scene" is a gleefully goofy tune the singer pocketed from Tony Bennett, and "Just Squeeze Me" is a solo guitar stroll through a timeless Duke ditty. Together, they're the bedrock of a rich program that even includes a mash-up of "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" and "Don't Get Around Much Any More." Who says jazz isn't keeping up with the times?

I GET A KICK OUT OF YOUR RADIO SHOW. WHAT'S THE IDEA BEHIND IT? It came from the between-song patter my wife and I have when we work together. They wanted us to bottle that. We decided to play records like we do in our house. It's usually stuff from what they call the Great American Songbook: Sinatra, Ella, Ellington, Nat Cole, as well as the people doing it today, like John Proulx, Tierney Sutton, Kurt Elling, Diana Krall. We wanted to put it in a package: "Hey, have you heard this one yet?" "Hey, I haven't heard that one in awhile." We're irreverent and informative, creating an atmosphere that's conducive to discovering what the music's about. I mean, people of a certain age might know this stuff only from the Rod Stewart records of standards and ask themselves, "What's the big deal?"

WHAT GENERATES THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN YOU AND JESSICA? WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF WORKING WITH YOUR SPOUSE? It's all pros, really. She knows lots of stuff I don't. She references theater, and I'll talk about Slam Stewart. We bring in the stuff that shapes us. She turned me on to the music from Floyd Collins, written by Adam Guettel, the grandson of Richard Rodgers. She said, "This is one of the finest works of music written today," and I shrugged and said, "Yeah, right." She was correct. I'm the stubborn Italian and she's the caring Irish person.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Entertainment, Kurt Elling,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY JIM MACNIE
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   HITTING THE HIGH NOTES  |  July 30, 2014
    You wanted more, you got more.
  •   NEW VOICES AND SUBLIME VETERANS  |  July 31, 2013
    The kickoff to the Newport Jazz Festival often brings us superb vocalists, and this year is no different.
  •   TEN BEST BETS AT THE NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL  |  August 01, 2012
    The Newport Jazz Festival has been on a roll these last few years, blending the commercial clout of big names with the creative cred of adventurous newcomers.
  •   20 DISCS YOU NEED  |  December 21, 2011
    Astoundingly intricate notions rendered with a glowing attack on this solo disc by the NYC pianist. Perhaps its real triumph is the array of approaches it brokers throughout the program — each distinct, yet related.
  •   THE BEACH BOYS | SMILE  |  November 02, 2011
    Never doubt the impact of whimsy as it applies to Brian Wilson's art. At the peak of his powers — 1965-'67, let's say — the Beach Boys boss was a sage arranger/composer and bona fide pop innovator.

 See all articles by: JIM MACNIE