Packing a Pleasing Punch

John Pizzarelli

At the Lobero Theatre, Thursday, April 6.

Reviewed by Stanley Naftaly

John Pizzarelli lit up the Lobero Theatre and everyone in it
Thursday evening by channeling Nat Cole and Oscar Moore, while also
establishing his own group in the continuum of tasty, swing-based,
jazz guitar quartets led by Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis,
and his own father, the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli. The evening
began on a warm note when the audience, unbidden, burst into “Happy
Birthday” — it was Pizzarelli’s 46th — as he came onstage. Then the
quartet — the leader’s guitar and vocals is backed by Larry Fuller
on piano, his brother Martin on bass, and Tony Tedesco on
drums — launched into “Coffee, Black” from their current album,
Knowing You. Pizzarelli’s guitar is nimble, smooth, and clean, but
Fuller immediately showed what he’s about, too. His solos are
sprightly, lilting, accented romps and his romping behind
Pizzarelli adds to the musicality of the moment. At one point, the
guitarist played a note with a meaningful glance at Fuller and the
pianist instantly responded by echoing it, twisted to the point of
just being recognizable; both clearly enjoyed the exercise. Martin
Pizzarelli is an excellent bassist who always plays the right notes
at the right time. He and drummer Tedesco, an understated master of
sticks and brushes, come close to being the ideal rhythm section;
they produce a solid and complementary floor of time and rhythm
that propels the ensemble.

A musical highlight of the evening was the band’s rendition of
Jimmy McHugh’s love song, “Say It, Over and Over Again.” The song
got a superb instrumental treatment by John Coltrane many years ago
on his landmark album, Ballads, and this was a beautiful, open,
vocal version that laid bare the lovely, simply phrased lyric
against the beguiling melody. Pizzarelli tipped his musical hat to
several of the greats who came before him. He honored The Nat
“King” Cole trio with guitarist Oscar Moore with “Frim Fram Sauce,”
and “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and invoked the sonic image of Wes
Montgomery by the use of Montgomery’s trademark octaves and thumb
picking. Pizzarelli played, “I Thought About You,” for his solo
encore to the evening, and summoned Joe Pass by playing a separate
bass line along with the melody and harmony.

Pizzarelli made the evening a delight by his affable manner and
expert way with stories and anecdotes from his life. He gave a
terrific show; his voice is maturing and gaining strength and
definition, and the warmth of his spirit enchanted everyone
present.

Login

Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.