It’s always a treat when John Pizzarelli plucks his guitar. This time around, with the John Pizzarelli Quartet performing at the Café Carlyle (May 29-June 8, 2012), there is extra pleasure. John’s 86-year-old father, the inimitable Bucky Pizzarelli, is a special guest. The show is as close to guitar heaven as it gets. The combination of musical greatness and nostalgia is a powerful force that makes this attraction one to savor, remember and talk about--a double gig not to be missed.
Father-son musical love permeates the room. John watches closely when his dad takes the spotlight, with an expression that indicates not knowing what Pizzarelli senior will do next as he launches into a jazz solo. The master is at work and deference is paid. Of course, John has his own moments to shine, including his rhythmic vocals delivered with intimacy and apparent ease.
Father-son banter is part of the show. John ponders how his pop, with his legendary long and busy career, had time to have four sons. Says Bucky: “I had four days off.”
John’s brother Martin Pizzarelli plays bass in the group, with Larry Fuller on piano, John in firm command with guitar and singing, and drummer Tony Tedesco keeping a sizzling beat when he isn’t tearing up the room with his own well-integrated soloing.
After completing the opener, “Three Little Words,” featuring both John and Bucky doing their stuff, there doesn’t seem much more left to say, given the expertise we have witnessed. Yet there is plenty more in the way of nifty, creative jazz interpretations, including John playing and singing “Coquette,” and the group swinging to “In a Mellow Tone” and “We Three.” (The show is attuned to the new Pizzarelli band CD, “Double Exposure.”)
The current program offers such enjoyable selections as “It’s been a Long. Long Time” and “Ruby, Baby.” John shows his super-smoothness with the “Ruby, Baby” lyrics. The greatest treats are yet to come, such as recalling Benny Goodman with “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
The room heats up whenever John and Bucky team with their respective instruments. However, there is special magic when the set-up is given over to Bucky, and there is a sense that the others in the band are learning something by paying close attention to what he does. At one point on opening night it seemed as if there was worry over the intensity with which he ripped into a solo, as if he might reach a breaking point. And then Bucky sat there with a broad smile, apparently satisfied that he could still show everyone how it is done.
This is an opportunity to observe the very best at work. At the Café Carlyle, 35 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue). Phone: 212-744-1600.