John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey @ Cafe Carlyle - New York City Article
John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey @ Cafe Carlyle Follow @nyccitiview
John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey
with Konrad Paszkudzki (piano) & Mike Karn (bass)
The Café Carlyle
35 E 76th Street, (212) 744-1600
Through November 16
The text at the top of the press release / song list for the latest Pizzarelli-Molaskey show at the Carlyle (year number 13 by their reckoning) says “Subject to Change,” and for a second, I thought that was the title of the show - and now that I think about it, it actually isn’t a bad title. This year, the subject (subject to change next year) is the words and music of Stephen Sondheim - no they’ve never done an all-Sondheim show before (although they may be among the very few acts in New York nightclubs that haven’t). Mr. Pizzarelli and Ms. Molaskey establish in the first few minutes why Sondheim is among the more popular subjects (not likely to change) amidst Broadway, jazz, and "cabaret" singers, and that is, like Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, and Johnny Mercer before him, his propensity for the duality between the complex and the simple, the tragic and the comic, the witty and the deeply, darkly moving. A few songs in, the twosome perform a deeply intricate reading of “Buddy’s Blues” (from Follies), all contrapuntal harmony, and with musical lines of dialogue flying back and forth almost quicker than the ear can pick them up; then, abruptly they switch to John in solo with a remarkably simple and direct “Sorry / Grateful” (Company), delivered with just voice and guitar. Ms. Molaskey has her own outstanding, love-me-tender moments as well, notably, “Remember?” (A Little Night Music) in which the composer, like many a musical theater savant before him, uses ¾ time as a signifier for youth and innocence, those simpler times when the world was young.
There’s also room for two guitar instrumentals, “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” famously previously rendered by Lea Delaria a la Bobby Darin and now by Mr. Pizzarelli a la Wes Montgomery (it’s almost a mash-up of “Sweeney Todd” and “Four on Six”) and “Send in the Clowns” (A Little Night Music), in which he channels the iconic solo by his father, Bucky Pizzarelli. Throughout this tight 60 minute show, Mr. Pizzarelli and Ms. Molaskey never fail to “twinkle, shimmer, and buzz.” They end with their now-famous collage of “Not Getting Married” (Company) and Jon Hendricks’s “Cloudburst” (courtesy Claude Cloud and the Thunderclaps), which works brilliantly because the two partners and the two songs never seem aware of the other’s existence yet comment wryly on each other just the same, rather like the intercutting at the climax of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance. I probably say this every year, but this is their best show ever - although this too is subject to change.
Photo Credit: Stephen Sorokoff
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)