By Doug Levine
22 July 2003
Forty-three-year-old jazz vocalist John Pizzarelli is one of today's top interpreters of the Great American Songbook. He's also a gifted composer and guitarist. This year John is celebrating two anniversaries: the 20th anniversary of his debut album, and the 10th anniversary of his acclaimed trio, featuring his brother Martin on bass and Ray Kennedy on piano. The John Pizzarelli Trio commemorates their first 10 years with a new live CD.
John Pizzarelli is a generous performer. Not only does he give 100 percent on stage, he credits his fellow musicians for a decade of overwhelming success both on the road and in the studio. John says, "Without the incredible talents of Ray Kennedy and Martin Pizzarelli, I would be hard-pressed to find musicians who can swing so hard, play so delicately on a ballad, and put up with me at a sound check."
John Pizzarelli was born the son of renowned jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. Bucky taught John to play guitar, and years later invited his young son to perform with him on-stage. John's earliest influences were guitarist Django Reinhardt, The Beatles, and singer Michael Franks. But, it wasn't until his father introduced him to the music of Nat "King" Cole that he decided to devote himself entirely to jazz.
"I think his introduction to me of the Nat Cole Trio's CDs, records actually, in 1980, was what laid the foundation of what I wanted to do," he explained. "That's when I discovered Route 66, Straighten Up And Fly Right, and most notably Paper Moon. It was a record that my father always talked about."
John released his first solo album, I'm Hip, Please Don't Tell My Father, in 1983. The eight selections featured his father, Bucky, on guitar. John continued to appear with his father in concert and on records until forming his "drummer-less" trio in 1992.
The trio's new double-CD was recorded at the legendary Birdland nightclub in New York City in September 2002. One disc is a so-called "greatest hits" collection, and the other contains all new material. John says he enjoys composing but will always owe a debt of gratitude to America's master songwriters.
"I love George Gershwin's writing," he said. "There's something extremely rhythmic about it. I love Johnny Mercer's lyrics. And I love Yip Harburg's lyrics. Everyone is like a little gift. I find them to be fascinating that way."
John will pay tribute to another one of his musical heroes, Frank Sinatra, when he stars in an upcoming show called His Voice, His Song. John will perform some of Sinatra's best-known songs with a 40-piece orchestra at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.The Songs Of Johnny Mercer: Too Marvelous For Words, Starring Johnny Mathis, Melissa Manchester, John Pizzarelli Trio, Margaret Whiting and Music Director Peter Nero