Review: John Pizzarelli

Guitarist / vocalist John Pizzarelli always scales the heights of cabaret’s jazzier side with astonishing musicianship and élan. This particular engagement at Birdland is singularly focused on one of John’s biggest obsessions, the Nat King Cole Trio.

Though John was already working professionally as a guitarist in his teen years, he was mostly into classic rock at the time. A good-looking girl said he should look into the Cole Trio, which his father, famed jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli was thrilled to encourage. It changed John’s life, setting him on the path to becoming the jazz virtuoso he is today.

John has a straightforward, but still astonishing, sort of virtuosity – his particular genius is in his chordal improvisations, finding hidden musical meanings in the most familiar of standards. This show makes it abundantly clear that Cole’s guitarist, Oscar Moore, was a definite influence on the way Pizzarelli plays.

It’s common courtesy in a jazz setting to applaud for a bit after everybody’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.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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