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Bucky and John Pizzarelli: Contrasts

C. Michael Bailey By

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Coincidence. This disc crossed my desk at the same time as the latest issue of Jazz Notes, which has a book review of Terrance Ripmaster's biography of Bucky Pizzarelli, Bucky Pizzarelli: A Life in Music.. The father and son Pizzarelli, both having successful performing careers apart from one another, have again joined to record a duet disc. Contrasts may not be the most appropriate title for the disc as the two Pizzarellis have a perfectly empathic relationship with regards to their playing style.

It's A Family Affair. Born John Paul Pizzarelli on January 9, 1926 in Paterson, NJ, Bucky Pizzarelli taught himself to play guitar, toured with Vaughn Monroe in the late '40s before serving as a studio musician for both NBC and ABC in the '50s and '60s. He has recorded as a leader for Savoy, Stash, Flying Dutchman, and Monmouth and played as a sideman for talents as disparate as Etta Jones, Gene Ammons, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Lena Horne, Hank Jones, and Roberta Flack. His playing style is a relaxed reflection of Swing Era. Equally adept at single string and chordal soloing, Bucky is a master of the seven-string guitar and instrument championed by many mainstream jazz guitarists today.

John Paul Pizzarelli, Jr. was born on April 6, 1960 in his father's hometown. This apple falling close to the tree, John Jr. excels in Swing era standards, singing with a charming and accessible voice and playing as intelligent and informed a guitar as his father. Most recently John has been found leading a trio including his brother Martin on bass and Ray Kennedy on piano in a modern approximation of Nat Cole's '50s trio. Last Year John performed on Broadway in the review "Dream" and was also seen on a couple of episodes of "Melrose Place." The young Mr. Pizzarelli has been a very busy man. But not too busy to take time out to record this delightful collection with his father.

Duos. Guitar duos have been a part of the jazz landscape since the 1920s. Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson began a recording tradition that was to include such pairs as Carl Kress and Dick McDonough, Frank Victor and Harry Volpe, and Carmen Mastren and Albert Harris. The Pizzarellis continue this tradition with a perfectly charming aplomb and grace that will keep the listener spinning this disc over and over again.

Engineered with each Pizzarelli having his own speaker, it is easy to compare the individual styles of the guitarist, though there is really little reason to do so. The two Pizzarellis have a telepathic empathy that is rightly only approximated by that of Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro. The liner notes provide a brief essay on each piece and a performance order listing. This makes the listening informed and fun without ever reducing it to mere academics.

This disc is really a Bucky Pizzarelli recording with his son John accompanying him. A touching and loving tribute to the elder guitarist. Bucky provides solo reading s of "Coquette", "The Bad and the Beautiful", "My Romance", and "For Whom the Bell Tolls". John, Jr. plays solo only on the former half to the "I Hadn't Anyone Till You/The Very Thought of You" medley. John Jr. provides his father clever and competent chordal and walking bass accompaniment on the remainder of the disc, the best being the opening "Three Little Words", "Test Pilot" and "Stage Fright". The rest of the pieces are fairly well divided between the two guitarists, who propel themselves with impeccable time through all of the remaining songs.

Superb. This is a tasteful, listenable collection that is a must for Pizzarelli fans old and new. Highly recommended.


Track Listing: Three Little Words, Coquette, Jersey Bounce, The Bad and the Beautiful, The Minute Samba, Contrasts, Test Pilot, I Hadn't Anyone Till You/The Very Thought of You, The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, Two Funky People, Stage Fright, Phantasmagoria, My Romance, Emily, Guess I'll Go Back Home This Summer, For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Personnel: Bucky and John Pizzarelli: Six- and Seven-String Guitars.

| Record Label: Arbors Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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