Pizzarelli/Moore/Frigo/Alden: Hot Club of 52nd Street (2004)
Conceived by label owner David Chesky as a followup to last season's Four Generations of Miles , this project features four musicians who embody the spirit of post-war swing music but also play with equal skill and enthusiasm in the bebop genre. Chesky did not want to make this into a Django Reinhardt nostalgia piece replete with transcribed solos, etc.
As the session unfolds, there is a natural affinity towards the Reinhardt-Grappelli Hot Club with similar instrumentation and tunes that resemble the gypsy guitarist's repetoire. The musicians themselves represent several shades of Django. Since the early 1950s, Bucky Pizzarelli has become the very definition of the respected studio master guitarist, in addition to having a prolific solo career. Howard Alden, the youngest in the group, has been a New York mainstay for the past twenty years and is comfortable playing the music of George Van Eps or Thelonious Monk. It was Alden who provided the guitar solos heard in the Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown , a 1930s period piece in which Sean Penn sought the whereabouts of Django Reinhardt. Johnny Frigo, the Chicago violinist, is now in his late 80s and originated the group Soft Winds in the late 1940s with Herb Ellis. Of the current jazz violinists, Frigo is the perfect choice to fit the Stephane Grappelli role for this session. Bassist Michael Moore, a frequent recording partner of Howard Alden, is also right at home. I saw Moore perform in duet with guitarist Gene Bertoncini in the late 1970s.
It should be no surprise to anyone that everything clicks musically here. The nine tracks of standards, plus Reinhardt's signature piece "Nuages," are comfortably performed with great charm and passion. "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" at mid-tempo is a toe-tapper and "Tangerine" is done with infectious rhythm. I cannot distinguish between the two plectrists save to say that most of the time one guitar would be playing rhythm against the other's single-string solo, and other times when they are trading off against each other. However, it should be noted that, as a real distraction, this live performance, taped at A.C. Pianocraft Recital Hall in New York in July, 2003, does not have a good balance between the music and the audience applause, which is miked appreciably louder than necessary.
Track Listing: Rosetta, On The Sunny Side Of The Street, Tangerine, Nuages, Strike Up The Band, Some Of These Days, Avalon, Melancholy Baby, I've Got Rhythm.
Personnel: Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, guitars; Johnny Frigo,violin; Michael Moore,bass.