John Pizzarelli, the world-renowned guitarist and singer, is the son of legendary jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who died just over a year ago on April 1, 2020. The family, which also includes the double bassist Martin Pizzarelli, is jazz royalty. This week in Saturday Soundtrack, we’ll celebrate the music of John Pizzarelli.
Bucky was a long-time member of The Tonight Show Band, where he played with a wide variety of musicians and in different musical genres. John clearly got his start at a very early age, and both father and son play the seven-string guitars popularized in jazz circles by George Van Eps.
On the jazz standard I’ve Got Rhythm, you can hear John play his Moll seven-sting and sing in his easy-going crooner style…until he begins scatting with the lead at the 51 second mark. Then, oh my goodness! Extra bonus points if you figure out where the pick was hiding that shows up just before that solo. Oh yes, and the chord inversions are just wonderful.
Speaking of chord inversions, I always marveled at how those jazz cats could put their fingers down seemingly anywhere on a fretboard and make a beautiful chord that is just right for that passing phrase. Take a listen to the changes in this solo arrangement of How High the Moon.
“John has established himself as a prime contemporary interpreter of the Great American Songbook and beyond, with a repertoire that includes Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and the Beatles.“
A recent home recording from the American Songbook of Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight is played on his acoustic seven-string. The amazing solo (there always seems to be one) begins about the 1:50 mark and it brings out an appreciative ovation from the family. In a recording from The Paste Studio, Pizzarelli continues in the acoustic vibe on Baubles, Bangles, and Beads.
In 2019, John honored the centennial of the legendary singer and pianist Nat King Cole with a selection of his classics. I love Pizzarelli’s arrangement and the video of (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, one of Cole’s major hits.
The trio also has a beautiful arrangement of Cole’s It’s Only a Paper Moon with a very nice solo by Konrad Paszkudzki on piano.
Pizzarelli just won a Grammy for producing James Taylor’s recent foray into the Great American Songbook. If you go to YouTube and type in John Pizzarelli, you can go down a rabbit hole and never come out.
I would suggest there are much worse ways to spend a few hours!
Enjoy, and have a good week.
More to come…
Image: John Pizzarelli, from his Facebook post “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”