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So Hard to Forget

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Album Review

Several well-known jazz musicians have used string quartets to complement their performances over the decades, and many have come up with resultant syrupy mixes drowning individuality via over-production. Thankfully, this collaboration between legitimate jazz string players and legendary veteran guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli does not suffer from sucrose saturation, as these sessions were conceived and played with large amounts of taste, class, and substance. Cellist Jesse Levy, violist Valerie Levy, and violinists Aaron Weinstein and Sara Caswell all are very capable of swinging this program of standards along quite well, while Pizzarelli's seven-string amplified or acoustic guitar has more than enough fuel to keep the songs moving along in a interesting manner without forcing or dragging them into a saccharine morass. Bassist Jerry Bruno, a longtime collaborator of Pizzarelli, is added to five cuts, while the repertoire includes American popular songs, works of Duke Ellington, legitimate Spanish classical works, and the music of George M. Smith. This is Pizzarelli's seventh recording for the Arbors label as a leader, and his 30th project for them overall, proof of his endurance and continuing interest in making good music consistently through the decades of his golden years. The technique of counterpoint between Pizzarelli and the strings crops up on the fun, '30s hot jazz-flavored Smith composition "Test Pilot," while the other Smith number, "Slow Burning," has the leader and Bruno conversing with the strings replying in slight refrains. Employing mainly the solo format, Pizzarelli's take of "It's Easy to Remember" is a ballad, deepened by the late-arriving strings sadly agreeing that separation is inevitable, while the short closer, "Last Night When We Were Young," has the guitarist pulling out harmonic chord flourishes of pensive introspection. Duke Ellington's music is lovingly interpreted in a 12-minute medley where Pizzarelli bends bluesy notes and chords, and does a polite version of "Prelude to a Kiss" alongside second guitarist Frank Vignola. Federico Torroba's Sonatina in two movements is a classical bolero waltz, with a changed up George Gershwin Americana-styled second part, while Tarantella Opus 87a is a lithe Italian chamber piece in 2/4 instead of the typical 6/8 time. Bouncy, upbeat, and happy, "Wabash One More Time" is the best swinger, while Pizzarelli's "Boots Blues" is a straightforward, easygoing tune, with help from Vignola and solos by both the exceptional violinists. This CD is a pleasant listening experience that yields more upon additional playings, best heard with significant others or ideally at dinner. It is also another fine effort in the long and illustrious career of one of the truly great jazz guitarists of all time. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 09 January 1926 in Paterson, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A superior guitarist appreciated by swing musicians in particular, Bucky Pizzarelli has been a fixture in jazz and the studios since the early '50s. Self-taught, Pizzarelli has long been a master of the seven-string guitar. He toured with Vaughn Monroe before and after a stint in the military. In 1952, Pizzarelli joined the staff of NBC and 12 years later he switched to ABC; in addition, he worked with the Three Sounds (1956-1957) and had several tours with Benny Goodman. In the 1970s he was more...
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So Hard to Forget, Bucky Pizzarelli
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