“Is this Rob Johnson, Denver Jazz Music Examiner calling John Pizzarelli?” asks the sly voice on the other end of the telephone. Talking to John Pizzarelli on the phone is like listening to one of his CDs. His warmth is genuine, his humor infectious, and you’re left feeling like you’ve spent time with a good friend. A very hip friend.
Maybe it’s because the 50-year-old guitarist/vocalist is doing what he’s wanted to do ever since he can remember: Playing music.. “I always played; rock bands, folk, whatever… .” It’s not a surprise: John’s father is the jazz-guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli. “There was always someone around to talk with about music”, Pizzarelli noted.
This Saturday at 7PM, at the Soiled Dove Underground, Pizzarelli will share his hipness with Denver’s hipsters. His quartet, as featured on his latest CD, “Rockin’ In Rhythm: A Tribute to Duke Ellington” , consists of: Larry Fuller, piano; John’s younger brother Martin, on bass;and Tony Tedesco on drums. “We’re getting a lot of students and younger folks, not like the Café Carlyle crowd, but it’s great”, Pizzarelli explained proudly.
The CD contains some great versions of Ellington staples, as when John’s wife, Jessica Molaskey , duets with the great Kurt Elling on Duke’s Cuban-trombone-composer Juan Tizol’s “Perdido”. Also not to be missed is John’s interpolation of Ellington’s early hit, “East St. Louis Toodle-oo”, with his later “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. You’ve got to hear it to believe it.
When asked if he preferred singing or playing guitar, Pizzarelli paused for a moment then said, “You know, I can’t think of doing one without the other. I’ve tried to be a standup singer, or sitdown guitarist, but it just doesn’t work. I’ve got to do both.”
Another way to hear Pizzarelli regularly is to tune into KEZW-AM 1430, on Saturday nights at 6PM for “Radio Deluxe”, which he shares with his wife. It’s an intense course in Advanced Hipness, with both hosts offering great music that they both love, the most recent being a show where Pizzarelli played movie scores, and Molaskey played jazz singers singing Broadway tunes.
The busy singer/guitarist (or is it guitarist/singer?) has made over 20 CDs. When asked which three he would recommend to a new listener, he quickly named the new Ellington CD, “Live at Birdland” and paused before he quickly added, “Oh, yeah. Don’t forget the “Bossa Nova” one.” You can get any of these CDs at Twist and Shout.
To miss the Hipster Experience open to you at the Soiled Dove Underground this Saturday at 7PM would be to miss a chance to hang out with a friend. A good friend. A totally hip friend. Don’t miss John Pizzarelli.