Review: John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey

On the basis of their new cabaret act at the Cafe Carlyle, entitled “When Worlds Collide”, I can confidently call the husband and wife team of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molasky the king and queen of mash-ups. No, really. These may not be dance-floor-ready combos of club and pop hits, but this show is all about unexpected combinations of songs and arrangements; in fact they raise the idea of the mash-up to as high and rarefied an art as you can get while still being “pop”.

The Pizzarellis represent the very height of cabaret’s jazzier side, with profound musical intelligence at work. The combinations they make are more than apt, they’re positively elegant. Some of them are almost too sophisticated to make an impact in a live situation. Their intricate combination of James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam” with Joe Henderson’s “The Kicker” will probably reveal itself better on repeated listens on their upcoming CD.

More often, though, they are right on target. There’s an instantly moving, very satisfying “fire and ice” mash-up of Jessica soulfully singing Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” opposite John smoothly whispering Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Waters of March”. And then there’s the Allman Brothers rock instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” cooled down and sped up in the spirit of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, allowing John and the band to solo with vigor, verve and virtuosity – breathtaking.

Overall, the singing’s smart, the music’s deftly swung and the atmosphere sparkles. Cabaret doesn’t get much better than this.

For tickets, click here.

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