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John Pizzarelli - Live At Birdland

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Album Review

This is a wonderful, warm-hearted, and effortlessly virtuosic live recording by one of the finest living exponents of pre-bop small-ensemble jazz. With pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist Martin Pizzarelli (and on two songs joined by vocalist Grover Kemble), singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli runs through a generally lightweight but thoroughly charming set of standards, homages, funny stories, and the occasional original tune; the fast tunes are light and frothy, the ballads smooth and gentle, and even the moments that are less than utterly inspired work together with the album's highlights to create a very satisfying whole. John Pizzarelli has a suit sponsor, which tells you something about what to expect of him as a singer: his voice is smooth and warm, offering a nice combination of Chet Baker's timbre and Dean Martin's fullness; as a guitarist you need to know that he favors seven-string guitars and flat-wound strings, leading him naturally to a swinging Django Reinhardt-meets-Freddie Green kind of sound. As for the trio's instrumentation, it's true that when you can comp with this kind of authority you don't technically need a drummer. But on a few tracks a drummer would have filled out the band's sound nicely. Highlights include the group's fun, slightly greasy take on "Frim Fram Sauce" and a great ode to Art Tatum called "Tea for Tatum," as well as a fine original blues composition titled "Headed Out to Vera's." Pizzarelli's own "Oh, How My Heart Beats for You" and "Day I Found You" are also wonderful. But the album's standout track is a limpidly gorgeous rendition of another original, "Better Run Before It's Spring." Pizzarelli is obviously having a blast in the intimate setting of the legendary Birdland club, and so will any jazz lover who takes the time to listen. Very highly recommended.

Biography

Born: 06 April 1960 in Paterson, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jazz guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli is a technically proficient fretman with a soft voice, charming stage presence, and knack for uptempo swing. Most often performing in a trio setting sans drums, Pizzarelli has found his niche covering jazz standards and American popular song in his own urbane style. The son of journeyman swing guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, John began performing with his father at age 20 and made his recorded debut with his 1983 release, I'm Hip — Please Don't Tell My Father....
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John Pizzarelli - Live At Birdland, John Pizzarelli
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