Monday, February 7, 2011

John Pizzarelli - Live at Birdland

This is a wonderful, warm-hearted, and effortlessly virtuosic live recording by one of the finest living exponents of pre-bop small-ensemble jazz. With pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist Martin Pizzarelli (and on two songs joined by vocalist Grover Kemble), singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli runs through a generally lightweight but thoroughly charming set of standards, homages, funny stories, and the occasional original tune; the fast tunes are light and frothy, the ballads smooth and gentle, and even the moments that are less than utterly inspired work together with the album's highlights to create a very satisfying whole. John Pizzarelli has a suit sponsor, which tells you something about what to expect of him as a singer: his voice is smooth and warm, offering a nice combination of Chet Baker's timbre and Dean Martin's fullness; as a guitarist you need to know that he favors seven-string guitars and flat-wound strings, leading him naturally to a swinging Django Reinhardt-meets-Freddie Green kind of sound. As for the trio's instrumentation, it's true that when you can comp with this kind of authority you don't technically need a drummer. But on a few tracks a drummer would have filled out the band's sound nicely. Highlights include the group's fun, slightly greasy take on "Frim Fram Sauce" and a great ode to Art Tatum called "Tea for Tatum," as well as a fine original blues composition titled "Headed Out to Vera's." Pizzarelli's own "Oh, How My Heart Beats for You" and "Day I Found You" are also wonderful. But the album's standout track is a limpidly gorgeous rendition of another original, "Better Run Before It's Spring." Pizzarelli is obviously having a blast in the intimate setting of the legendary Birdland club, and so will any jazz lover who takes the time to listen. Very highly recommended. - by Rick Anderson, AMG

Artist: John Pizzarelli Trio
Album: Live at Birdland I-II
Year: 2002
Label: Telarc Jazz (DSD, 2003)
Runtime: 131:55

Tracks:
CD1 [1:06:42]
1.  Introduction 0:06 
2.  Just You, Just Me (Jesse Greer/Raymond Klages) 4:41
3.  The Frim Fram Sauce (Redd Evans/Joe Ricardel/Joe Richards) 5:31
4.  This Song Is You (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein) 6:16
5.  Is'n It a Pity? (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 4:14
6.  Rhode Island Intro 1:04 
7.  Rhode Island (Howard Dietz/Henderson/DeSylva Brown/Arthur Schwartz) 3:45
8.  Library of Congress Story (Ray Kennedy) 4:13
9.  Gospel Truth (Ray Kennedy) 5:22
10.  Dizzy Gillespie Story (Ray Kennedy) 3:14
11.  Tea for Tatum (Ray Kennedy/John Pizzarelli) 5:05
12.  James Taylor Intro 1 0:11 
13.  Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight (James Taylor) 3:14
14.  James Taylor Intro 2 1:02 
15.  Mean Old Man (James Taylor) 3:50
16.  Manhattan (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 4:12
17.  Rosemary Clooney Story (Ray Kennedy) 2:31
18.  Moonlight Becomes You (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen) 3:18
19.  Final Intro 0:29 
20.  Will You Still Be Mine? (Tom Adair/Matt Dennis) 4:24
CD2 [1:05:13]
1.  Introduction 0:20 
2.  Three Little Words (Bert Kalmar/Harry Ruby) 4:30
3.  The Can't Take That Away from Me (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 6:04
4.  Oh, How My Heart Beats for You (John Pizzarelli) 4:27
5.  The Day I Found You (John Pizzarelli) 3:09
6.  Pollywog Story (John Pizzarelli) 1:44
7.  It's Only a Paper Moon (Harold Arlen/E.Y. "Yip" Harburg/Billy Rose) 7:42
8.  Stompin' at the Savoy (Benny Goodman/Andy Razaf/Edgar Sampson/Chick Webb) 4:44
9.  Better Run Before It's Spring (John Pizzarelli/Linda Rose) 3:40
10.  Grover Kemble Story (Ray Kennedy/John Pizzarelli) 2:55
11.  Headed Out to Vera's (Grover Kemble/John Pizzarelli) 3:55
12.  Medle: Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You Baby, Baby All the Time/Midnight Blue (Michael H. Goldsen/Neal Hefti/Andy Razaf/Don Redman/Bobby Troup) 5:29
13.  I Like Jersey Best Intro 0:57 
14.  I Like Jersey Best (Joseph Cosgriff) 8:28
15.  My Castle's Rockin (Alberta Hunter) 3:55
16.  Baby Just Come Home to Me (John Pizzarelli) 3:14

Personnel:
John Pizzarelli (Guitar, Vocals)
Ray Kennedy (Piano)
Martin Pizzarelli (Double Bass)

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