All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

175

John Pizzarelli: Dear Mr. Sinatra

By

Sign in to view read count
Whether they know it or not, performers pay tribute to the Master Storyteller every time they interpret and resuscitate one of the thousands of songs from the so-called "Great American Songbook"—a repository of the best songs written between 1920 and 1960 by Berlin, Kern, Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Arlen, Van Heusen, Styne and company—and all owing their continuing influence and vitality more to one performer than any other.

So, as with any other recorded Frank Sinatra tribute, the question is inescapable: What does it mean exactly? To a "Sinatraphile, perhaps it's the exemplary singing—from the quality of the vocal instrument, to the nuanced interpretation of demanding texts, to the virtuoso elocution of material ranging from angst- ridden art songs about aging and death ("suicide songs," he called them) to the full-blown quasi-operatic drama of the Hammerstein material. Or maybe it's the hip readings of the Cole Porter songs, with their extroverted expressions of love's deceptions and a lover's obsessions. Or a fitting tribute album might be one emulating the integrity of the organically whole "concept albums," collections conceived by Sinatra and Nelson Riddle as integrated suites, or thematically linked, carefully sequenced tone poems. Or to a few cynics, it could be seen as exploitive.

Giving Pizzarelli the benefit of the doubt, his effort might be seen primarily as confirming his good taste in choice of repertory not to mention his commitment to swinging and soulful readings of the standards. Like his earlier nod to Brazilian music, it's pleasant enough, and might be even more so without the explicit reminder of a Sinatra connection (unfortunately Old Blue's/Riddle's version of "You Make Me Feel So Young" preceded Pizzarelli's in my CD deck). "If I Had You," on the other hand, goes down smooth as silk, because it's not so exclusively linked with Sinatra (moreover, the definitive Sinatra version, a Robert Farnon arrangement recorded in Great Britain, was not even released in the States until 25 years or more after the original recording). But with the singularly successful musical ménage à trois realized by Sinatra-Riddle- Porter on "I've Got You Under My Skin" still resonating in a listener's consciousness, the dedication once again becomes gratuitous and not a little distracting.

I'd like to say that Pizzarelli's talent as a guitarist makes up the difference, but that would be disingenuous and misleading. Sinatra's voice and bel canto style were the product of years of training (including classical techniques and breathing exercises). The careful study he made of performers such as Mabel Mercer, Billie Holiday and Tommy Dorsey helped complete the picture. Finally, the careers catalogued in a minor Sinatra hit, "That's Life," practically represent the life experiences that prepared him to play any role that a song might call for—from the most invincible to the most vulnerable while never leaving a doubt that he meant every word—the singer as consummate method actor, making it impossible to distinguish between art and life, performance and performer, persona and person.

John Clayton's arrangements may not yet measure up to Riddle's or Johnny Mandell's, but his emergence over the past twenty years as one of the best in the business is further support of Pizzarelli's good musical instincts. Still it should be possible to reflect the light of the mother lode strictly through the music. In fact, what better tribute than a party for which the invoked guest-of-honor requires no identification?


Track Listing: Ring-A-Ding Ding; You Make Me Feel So Young; How About You?; If I Had You; Witchcraft; I

Personnel: John Pizzarelli: guitars, vocals; The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: John Clayton: conductor, bass; Jeff Clayton: alto saxophone, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Keith Fiddmont: alto saxophone, clarinet; Rickey Woodard, Charles Owens: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Lee Callet: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Bijon Watson, Sal Cracchiolo, Gilbert Castellanos, Bobby Rodriguez, James Ford: trumpet; Ira Nepus, George Bohanon, Ryan Porter: trombone; Robbie Hioki, Maurice Spears: bass trombone; Tamir Hendelman: piano; Christoph Luty: bass; John

Title: Dear Mr. Sinatra | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Telarc Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Half Light CD/LP/Track Review
Half Light
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 24, 2018
Read The Groove Hunter CD/LP/Track Review
The Groove Hunter
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Powered by Life CD/LP/Track Review
Powered by Life
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Seymour Reads The Constitution! CD/LP/Track Review
Seymour Reads The Constitution!
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Mephiti CD/LP/Track Review
Mephiti
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2018
Read Seymour Reads The Constitution! CD/LP/Track Review
Seymour Reads The Constitution!
by Doug Collette
Published: May 23, 2018
Read "4" CD/LP/Track Review 4
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 27, 2018
Read "Jorg Schippa's Kiosk" CD/LP/Track Review Jorg Schippa's Kiosk
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Walk The Walk" CD/LP/Track Review Walk The Walk
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 21, 2018
Read "Err Guitar" CD/LP/Track Review Err Guitar
by Don Phipps
Published: December 4, 2017
Read "Domains" CD/LP/Track Review Domains
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Lattice" CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 25, 2017