It’s always dangerous to see someone do what you do, especially if that person does it way better and more successfully than you do it.
Watching John Pizzarelli play the Great American Songbook is such a danger, though one well worth the risk.
I had the opportunity last night–no, yesterday afternoon– to see John Pizzarelli and his trio, a King Cole-esque confab of piano, guitar, and bass, play at the Keystone Korner Baltimore, a relatively new “jazz restaurant and bar” in Charm City’s Inner Harbor. Five o’clock start time on a Sunday, no doubt to accommodate a senior crowd and guys with little kids. Well, one guy who wanted to be home in time to tuck his kid into bed. “Good afternoon,” is something a jazz musician never says, quipped Pizzarelli at the top of the show, though once the lights were up on stage it didn’t matter if it was five o’clock, ’round midnight, or a-quarter to three. It was showtime, and damn it was a show.
John Pizzarelli is one of the last links to the true American Songbook, a book popularized by Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and a 94-year-old guitarist who taught young John everything he knows. That would be “Bucky” Pizzarelli, John’s dad, patriarch of the Pizzarelli clan and of, one might say, jazz guitar itself. John makes reference to his dad often in his set, sometimes with reverence and sometimes with humor. Sometimes with both.
The set list included the usual array of standards and ballads and showtunes, nothing you haven’t heard before but maybe haven’t heard in a while. Of course there was “How High the Moon” and “Honeysuckle Rose” and, surprise, a thoughtful rendition of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific. This is, apparently, a cut from a forthcoming album John produced and on which he plays, set to hit shelves and cyberspace later this week. It’s called American Standard. The artist? One James Taylor. Because eventually everybody covers the Great American Songbook.
Thanks for coming our way, John Pizzarelli. And to the folks at Keystone Korner… keep swingin’.