John Pizzarelli Sings Johnny Mercer at Cafe Carlyle - New York City Article
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With his mellow baritone voice, his often-breathtaking seven-string guitar virtuosity, and his almost unstoppable proclivity for rapid-fire one-liners, John Pizzarelli has long been one of the great entertainers of the contemporary jazz scene. While he’s created memorable composer-driven songbook shows in the recent past (including shows devoted to the music of Duke Ellington and Paul McCartney), the combination of Pizzarelli and Johnny Mercer is a natural one. He and the Savannah songwriter are super Sympatico, not least because Mercer, like Pizzarelli, himself sang in what could be deemed a musician’s voice, more naturally appealing than formally trained. Working with his core trio of bassist “Doctor” Mike Karn and pianist Konrad Paszkudzki (pronounced “Konrad Paszkudzki”), Mr. Pizzarelli guides us through the lyricists long and productive career, and his many collaborators. As always, Mr. Pizzarelli is a firebrand, both in terms of his blazing instrumental solos and his steady stream of verbal gags and audience banter, but some of the most effective moments are his intimate, romantic ballads. Showing us Mercer’s introspective side, he takes us through a moving tale of love and loss constructed upon a foundation of Mercer’s European imports, “Autumn Leaves,” “When the World Was Young,” and, most stirringly, “Summer Wind,” which, intriguingly, pivots between 4/4 and ¾. But whether the songs are happy or sad, John Pizzarelli never fails to accentuate the positive.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)