The John Pizzarelli Quartet always scales the heights of cabaret’s jazzier side with astonishing musicianship and elan. This particular engagement at the Café Carlyle, however, is singularly focused on their guest star Bucky Pizzarelli, John’s father as well as jazz guitar legend in his own right (having played with the likes of Benny Goodman, Les Paul and Dion and the Belmonts).
With both Pizzarellis, a profound musical intelligence is at work. Bucky’s guitar style is amazingly fluid and elegant, with nonpareil mastery of a technique called “guitar harmonics” that produces high notes of extraordinary expressivity and beauty. John has a more straightforward, but no less astonishing, sort of virtuosity – his particular genius is in his chordal improvisations, finding hidden musical meanings in the most familiar of standards. Watching the two duet, which they do several times throughout the evening, is truly thrilling and very rewarding.
Bucky performs Richard Rodgers’s “This Nearly Was Mine” in the the style of…well, Bucky Pizzarelli, those “harmonics” lingering with a lovely, luscious longing. For previous cabaret acts, John had often subtly framed songs “in the style of” a particular jazzman. Here, however, he is explicitly committing to a Pizzarelli family style, saying early on that “we’ll play lots of different songs, but they will all sound something like that – and that’s the way we like it!!!”
It’s common courtesy in a jazz setting to applaud for a bit after everbody’s solos, and indeed bandleader John frequently points at one of the instrumentalists as if to say “give it up for so-and-so”! More often in this show, though, the onslaught of flashy jazziness is so relentless that you don’t applaud for fear of missing something amazing. Neither jazz nor cabaret gets much better than this.
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