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John Pizzarelli Live at Scullers Jazz Club

John Pizzarelli Live at Scullers Jazz Club

Courtesy Jaci Berkopec


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John Pizzarelli
Scullers Jazz Club
Debut of new album Stage & Screen
Cambridge, MA
June 2, 2023

With an evening dedicated to the American Songbook, acclaimed jazz guitarist and vocalist, John Pizzarelli, performed with his jazz trio at the intimate cocktail-lounge setting of Scullers Jazz Club for a small but dedicated audience. Pizzarelli was set to play selections from his new release, which he is touring on, Stage and Screen (Palmetto Records, 2023). This release and the selections played this evening, are a reflection of a career widely wrapped around the American Songbook, having opened for Frank Sinatra, and performed with Les Paul, Benny Goodman, George Shearing, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Frigo, Buddy DeFranco and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. With many recorded tribute albums to legendary icons (Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney) and also his love for Bossa Nova (Antonio Carlos Jobim), Pizzarelli is now re-interpreting classic songs from Broadway musicals and Hollywood films.

Taking the stage, with easy banter and a wide grin that is infectious—you were immediately certain that he was enjoying the moment and music he would share. Joining him that evening was his current traveling and recording trio, bassist Mike Karn, a seasoned session player, who started with Pizzarelli in 2015, and an exceptional "stride" pianist Isaiah J. Thompson, who came to Pizzarelli's attention, at the age of 16 in 2013, through a musical association and recommendation from Christian McBride.

He covered several songs from his new release, opening with "I Want to Be Happy" from the 1925 musical No, No Nanette, performed on Pizzarelli's 7-string acoustic electric guitar, with a blazing tempo and then passed along to pianist Thompson for stride runs up and down the keyboard. Slowing the pace down, he played an intimate soft ballad guitar rendition of "Tea for Two" composed in 25' by Irving Caesar, but later gained greater popularity from Doris Day's version in the 1950's musical of the same name.

Included in the evening was a Bossa Nova selection and a nod to Antonio Carlos Jobim. Pizzarelli showed off his Spanish guitar virtuosity with delicate right hand string picking and strumming, while creating a sumptuous melody and melancholy refrain on the fretboard.

Re-introducing a chordal, stand-alone guitar rendition of Pat Metheny's "Last Train Home," he delivered the yearning phrasing of Metheny's moody piece. Minus the synthesizer and drum beat of the original recording, Pizzarelli kept his own rhythm with thumb independently plucking an open lower string and offered a truly personal interpretation.

He also took breaks to offer well-known interludes of storytelling which were well-rehearsed but welcome, sharing his experiences as warmup for Sinatra, and also anecdotes and lessons learned on-stage with his father, swing-guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and Les Paul, bringing applause and shared laughter for his self-effacing humor.

Closing with "As Time Goes By," singing the immortalized words in Casablanca, the Pizarellli trio brought back the mood and timeless quality of this piece and others featured this evening, delivering solid re-interpretations and still allowing each musician a featured moment to extend on these classics.

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