Wednesday, June 30, 2010

John Pizzarelli: Rockin' in Rhythm

Telarc Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.30.10
Buy CD: Rockin' in Rhythm

John Pizzarelli is the guitarist/vocalist member of the musical Pizzarelli family. His father, Bucky, also is a guitarist; brother Martin is the bassist in the group featured on this album.

Rockin' in Rhythm is a tribute to Duke Ellington; it contains 14 of the most famous charts performed by that august band, including classics such as “In a Mellow Tone,” “East St. Louis Toodle Oo,” “Satin Doll,” “C-Jam Blues,” “Just Squeeze Me,” “Cottontail” and many more.

Although most of Ellington's melodies originally were performed — and are remembered — as instrumentals, many contained lyrics; this album includes both the words and music. John Pizzarelli is the primary vocalist, accompanying himself on guitar, and two guest vocalists are included: Kurt Elling and Pizzarelli's wife, Broadway star Jessica Molaskey.

Pizzarelli's Swing Seven group — a basic rhythm section plus trumpet, trombone/alto horn, alto sax/clarinet and baritone sax/baritone clarinet — is joined by a violin and tenor sax. Bucky Pizzarelli also gets involved with a few tracks.

The result is a smooth, sophisticated and swinging time-capsule of musicians and music that so many of us grew up to. It's wonderful to be exposed to a group of talented artists who have been part of the prime jazz era, and are doing their best to keep it alive.

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