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Elizabeth Ahlfors

Pizzarelli Party Time at the Carlyle

John Pizzarelli Quartet with Special Guest, Bucky Pizzarelli
Café Carlyle
980 Madison Avenue (at 76th Street). (212) 744-1600
Opened April 9, 2013
Tues. through Sat. at 8:45 PM. Sat. second show at 10:45 PM
Cover charge Tues-Thurs: $90 per person ($50 bar seating). Cover charge Fri-Sat: $100 per person ($60 bar seating)
Closes April 20, 2013
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors April 9, 2013

Bucky Pizzarelli. Photo by Stephen Sorokoff.

“Just Molly and Me, and Bucky makes three,” John Pizzarelli crooned, improvising a line from the old pop tune, “My Blue Heaven.” With a mischievous grin, he glanced over at his 87-year-old father, legendary chord guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli, keeping the rhythm on his seven string guitar. Regulars at the Café Carlyle, the two virtuoso guitarists were backed by a tight-knit trio including another Pizzarelli, Martin on bass, and two “honorary” Pizzarellis, Larry Fuller on piano and Tony Tedesco on drums. With this group, rhythm and swing is as natural as rolling over in bed.

Also natural is John Pizzarelli’s wit and knack for storytelling. His good humor adds ebullience to all his shows. He loves his music, his family, his musicians, the life around him that inspires his story-telling and the audience. On opening night the audience included wife, Jessica Molaskey, daughter Madeleine sitting right in front of her grandfather, son, John, Jr. and sister, Mary.

It is a treat when father and son share the stage and exchange their give-and-take with a mutual admiration intimacy that envelopes the music. Their connection was palpable in songs like the tender, easy swing of, “I’m Confessin'’” (Al Neiburg, Doc Daughterty and Ellis Reynolds) and the take-no-prisoners guitar gusto of “Tangerine” (Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer), a big band hit for the Jimmy Dorsey Band.

John and Bucky Pizzarelli. Photo by Stephen Sorokoff.

John performed a clever Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s tune, “I Like to Recognize the Tune,” (“They kill the Arthur Schwartzes and the Glinkas/ Don't be shtinkers. Must you bury the tune?”) a gentle knock at the brassy big bands in the late 1930’s. He revealed that even while still in high school, Bucky was playing with the Vaughn Monroe Dance Band in Scranton, Binghamton and Rochester. Bucky has performed with jazz greats like Zoot Sims, Doc Severinson Skitch Henderson and Stephane Grappelli, a jazz violinist reknown for his extraordinary performances with master guitarist, Django Reinhardt, one of Bucky’s idols. Years later, Woody Allen chose Bucky to play guitar on his soundtrack for a film, “Sweet and Lowdown,” loosely based on Django Reinhardt.

While John and the rest of the quartet had plenty of space to express their musicality and rhythm, the special guest in this engagement was undeniably the patriarch, and this evening concentrated on showcasing Bucky, still an active musician, touring and recording. One of the best seven-string guitarists around, Bucky did not say much in the show; he speaks through his music and that is eloquent. John stepped back to let Bucky hold court with two reflective Rodgers and Hart ballads, “It’s Easy to Remember (and So Hard to Forget”) and “This Nearly Was Mine.” Recognizing that the elder Pizzarelli was holding a rapt audience, John suggested adding, ”Darn That Dream” (Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie DeLange), “Body and Soul” by Johnny Green with Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton and “These Foolish Things” (Jack Strachey and Eric Maschwitz). The audience was in the palm of his hand.

Together, John and Bucky two traded turns with a bracing jazz favorite by Rodgers and Hart, “Mountain Greenery” and the entire quintet caught fire with Bucky Pizzarelli’s “Somebody Call Hanly,” John adding his ferocious scat, Martin energetic on bass and Tony Tedesco adding a wild and furious drum sequence. They turned down the heat to deliver a cool encore by Cliff Burwell and Mitchell Parish’s, “Sweet Lorraine,” bringing an end to another memorable Pizzarelli Party.


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