John Pizzarelli and The Hot Club Of Detroit

Nick Catalano By

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As he continues his prolific recording career John Pizzarelli faces greater challenges in searching for material that can result in successful, fresh performances. He has covered most of the legends of the American Songbook and, in his latest session for Telarc, he examines the music of Richard Rodgers. This composer's music has, of course, been gleaned by countless performers and any attempt to come up with "something new" faces stern tests. But Pizzarelli's multifarious musical talents (producing, vocalizing, playing) have created formidable formulas for success throughout his CD career and With A Song In My Heart is the latest example of this success. Again, Pizzarelli calls upon the superior arranging acumen of Don Sebesky and the seminal musicianship of veterans such as Larry Fuller, Tony Tedesco and his pop Bucky Pizzarelli. The result is another delightful outing.

From the clever counterpointing of Jobim's "One Note Samba" with Rodgers' "Johnny One Note (arranged by Sebesky) to the samba textures of "Happy Talk" (a tune which defies credulity) Pizzarelli weaves his way through Rodgers' oeuvre always delivering originality and accessibility in generous portions.

Particularly intriguing in this session are Pizzarelli's producing skills. "I wanted it to be sort of along the lines of the kinds of records Marty Paitch and Mel Torme used to make," he said. "No real rhythm guitar to speak of, not a lot of piano. The horns sort of lead the way over the bass and drums. That way, the piano and guitar are more like soloists." Hiring Sebesky was the key to achieving these effects which make "With A Song In My Heart" truly notable.

It has been more than seven decades since Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club produced the original "gypsy jazz" music that wowed audiences on three continents. Today there are combos called "Hot Clubs" in many places like Tokyo, San Francisco, Seattle, Sweden, Norway and Austria. In America, this popular tradition is presently best represented by a remarkable group dubbed the Hot Club Of Detroit. Led by fast-fingered Reinhardt disciple Evan Perri, the group includes accordionist Julien Labro, a native of Marseilles, soprano and tenor saxophonist Carl Cafagna, rhythm guitarist Paul Brady and bassist Shannon Wade. This music evolved from the French musette sounds of yore and the present CD "Night Town" of the neo-Reinhardt Detroiters incorporates related styles such as New Orleans jazz, Bluegrass, Eastern European, Carribean beguine, Brazilian choro and samba. Despite the variegated sounds, the Hot Club Of Detroit has an infectious cohesion in this follow-up to the group's 2006 debut CD. The selections include "Speevy" and "Melodie au Crepuscule" (both Reinhardt tunes), the ancient French ditties "J'Attendrai" and "Valse a Rosenthal," Maurice Ravel's "Tzigane, tunes by Jelly Roll Morton plus several originals by Perri and Labro.

The contributions to jazz and other American musics from these French underpinnings cannot be overestimated. Not only is Night Town delightfully nostalgic but it might become required listening for ethnomusicologists.

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