If you want to experience the glory of musical virtuosity, get thee to the Café Carlyle to take pleasure in the performing of son John and father Bucky in their Pizzarelli fest (April 9-April 20). The official billing is the John Pizzarelli Quartet with special guest Bucky Pizzarelli. What we witness is the superb guitar playing by father and son and the very special musical relationship that they have. It’s a love-in for them and also for the audience.
The Pizzarellis appear to feed off each other, with John doing the singing, including his ability to furiously scat while playing his instrument, with Bucky excelling with his guitar expertise. At times Bucky delivers sublime solos, with John watching as if he is never sure what delight will come next from his dad. Bucky grins a lot, as if he is having the time of his life playing and shows no sign of slacking off despite his age of 87. He’s still the master at work.
Such were the dynamics on opening night of this two-week engagement. John’s quartet was solid, with John’s brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Larry Fuller on piano and delivering great solo runs, with Tony Tedesco on drums and getting a chance to show his individual prowess as well.
The tone was set with the colorfully intense interpretation of “My Blue Heaven” as the opener, with John singing and at one point changing the lyrics to “Molly and me and Bucky makes three,” with Bucky soloing on cue. The mood became more gentle with John singing “I’m Confessin’” and Bucky providing magical guitar strains.
But you ain’t heard nothin’ until you experience their “Tangerine,” a wild adventure with John and Bucky dueting, and John scatting like crazy.
As those who have heard him before know, John has the gift of the gab, and his comments are amusing as well as informative. In the course of the banter, he remembered that his dad, when young, played in the big band era with Vaughn Monroe. A propos, they performed “I’d Like to Recognize the Tune” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, which John pointed out was written as a protest to the vogue of brass among the big bands of the day.
Their selections also included a lively “Mountain Greenery” and what John described as the “anti ‘One More for the Road’”—“Have Another One, Not Me.” The mood got especially mellow as Bucky did exquisite renditions of “Body and Soul” and “These Foolish Things” while John stood proudly by watching him with fascination.
John said there was no point in going off stage and coming back for an encore, an extra effort for dad, so they just wound up by treating the audience to their version of “Sweet Lorraine.” By then one could bask in the comfort of having experienced a memorable evening of guitar playing at its best by icons of the musical world. You can have that experience too through April 20. At the Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street (At Madison Avenue). www.thecarlyle.com. Reviewed April 10, 2013.