John Pizzarelli Soars at Birdland

Nick Catalano By

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Wowing a late night crowd of worshipful fans at a packed Birdland, John Pizzarelli showcased his guitar mastery, vocal excitement, and hilarious patter this past Saturday night. Accompanied by his Swing Seven band of jazz all-stars, the scion of the famed New Jersey Pizzarelli clan (guitarist father Bucky will celebrate his 90th birthday this week at the Jazz Gallery) continued his world-renown jazz parade with a set featuring the work of legendary composers.

Pizzarelli has performed in many formats throughout his career. Initially, he patterned his drummerless trio (featuring his bassist brother Martin) on the structure of Nat King Cole and his heavy swinging established a notable trademark. Presently, he also appears annually with wife/vocalist Jessica Molaskey at the Carlyle Hotel each fall unveiling new interpretations of the sophisticated cabaret opuses of yore. His solo CDs reveal yet another dimension of his wide-ranging talent (his Christmas CD featuring famed arrangers i.e. Don Sebesky is a must for holiday listeners).

On September 11 eve his most epical group the Swing Seven took center stage and uncorked its bevy of improvisational wizards. Weaving their way through more glowing Sebesky arrangements of Gershwin, Cahn & Van Husen, and Hamilton & Lewis compositions, the band complemented Pizzarelli's pyrotechnic scatting and hip phrasing with veteran aplomb.

Inspired soloing from saxophonists Andy Fusco and Kenny Berger, trombonist John Mosca, and pianist Konrad Paszkudzki led the cavalcade late into the night and had the audience screaming for more. Pizzarelli gratefully delivered.

Recent Pizzarelli CDs featuring tributes to legends as diverse as Johnny Mercer and The Beatles reflect the incalculable Pizzarelli repertoire. Fans who didn't catch the Birdland bash, will be amply assuaged listening to these offerings.

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