Corrections or additions?

This article by Richard Skelly was prepared for the January 31,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

New Guitar Summit

For guitarist John Pizzarelli, jazz guitar did not

come first, or come to him naturally. The amiable 40-year-old


songwriter and singer, who came of age in the 1970s, was raised on

rock ‘n’ roll. It was only after he began showing an interest in jazz

that his father, legendary seven-string guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli,

began showing him some chords.

Pizzarelli and his brother, bassist Martin Pizzarelli, who now plays

with him in his trio, both played in a procession of rock ‘n’ roll

bands through high school in their native Saddle River. The John


Trio, which also features pianist Ray Kennedy, has been together for

eight years now, and their playing has been described as "tight

as a drum." "I’ll do something on a song," says


"and all of a sudden Martin just follows me without me saying

a thing."

Pizzarelli freely admits he didn’t learn all that much from his


father until he began performing together with him. Certainly for

a kid interested in learning jazz, he had one of the best teachers

in the Garden State right at home.

Pizzarelli is one of four featured guitarists in the "New Guitar

Summit," a revue-style concert at McCarter Theater on Friday,

February 2. Sharing the bill are guitar wizards Jay Geils, Duke


and Gerry Baudoin.

Jay Geils, former leader of the J. Geils Band, a group that at one

point included singer Peter Wolf, has been on a blues and jazz kick

of late. Geils has been performing as a duo with his band’s longtime

harmonica player, Magic Dick, at blues festivals around the country.

Duke Robillard spent several years on the road with the rockin’ Texas

blues band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and before that, forged his

reputation in the 1970s as part of Roomful of Blues, a unique 10-piece

blues band that brought swing and dance tunes back to blues music.

Gerry Beaudoin is the founder of the Boston Jazz Ensemble and has

been hailed as one of Boston’s most successful jazz musicians.


recording, "Minor Swing," with mandolinist David Grisman and

Duke Robillard, has achieved a certain cult status among acoustic

music fans.

Born in 1960, John Pizzarelli is recognized today among

the prime interpreters of the popular American songbook. He’s brought

new life to the form with the cool jazz flavor of his brilliant guitar

playing and his contemporary slant on the eloquence of the old


When I asked Pizzarelli in 1996 what his dad taught him, he said the

most important thing the elder Pizzarelli taught him about the art

of jazz guitar is that "there should be no individual heroics.

Playing as an ensemble is crucial to playing good jazz. Mostly, I

learned by way of on-the-job training."

But it wasn’t until Pizzarelli began emulating the singing and


he heard on Nat "King" Cole’s records that his own style began

to take on a life of its own. It’s a goal every jazz musician works


"When I found Nat Cole, the parameters were all there for me,"

he says " — everything I wanted to do in music was right there,

and those songs were not sung every day at that point. Familiarizing

myself with Nat Cole came on the heels of my learning a lot of Michael

Franks and Kenny Rankin songs, and a lot of other popular songs I’d

have to do when I was playing in a restaurant somewhere."

Since his recording debut in 1990, Pizzarelli has 14 albums to his

credit. He recorded nine for the RCA Victor label, including his


"John Pizzarelli Meets The Beatles" and "P.S. Mr.


Most recently, after RCA got out of the jazz business, he jumped to

the highly-regarded Telarc Jazz label. His new Telarc albums, both

released in 2000, are "Let There Be Love" and "Kisses

In The Rain."

In the liner notes to "Let There Be Love," Pizzarelli


how he "set out to make an album that was a spontaneous expression

of what it feels like to be `in love,’ from wedding day, to everyday,

to the occasional rainy day. I wanted this album to feel personal

and romantic, as if you had happened upon us playing for friends in

our living room late at night."

Pizzarelli is married to Broadway actress Jessica Molaskey and, now

that he can afford the apartment rents on the other side of the


he’s based in Manhattan. He and his wife have successfully co-authored

some of the songs featured on the new albums. He has been appearing

in commercials of late for the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut,

and has kept up a busy international touring schedule. His dad Bucky

jokes that, "This kid makes more money now than I ever did in

my best years!"

His new "Kisses in the Rain" album proved a successful


for the trio. It was recorded virtually live with the players


free of headphones and other typical studio constraints. That


allowed the three to play off of one another naturally as they would

in a concert setting. The classics like "Sugar To Tea," "I

Got Rhythm" and "I’m In The Mood For Love," suggest the

natural swing, grace, and unfettered communication between the three

musicians. "Kisses in the Rain" presents the trio in the


of a rehearsal jam or live recording, but with the precision sound

only available in a studio setting.

For years, Pizzarelli has been linked to a tune called "I Like

Jersey Best," written by Joe Cosgriff, a printer from Hasbrouck

Heights. He began performing it early in his career, and now, he can’t

leave the stage without performing it, almost everywhere he goes.

"It’s funny, we get requests for that tune all over the country.

All over the world, really," he said. "I just can’t escape

it. I guess it’s kind of like my `Born To Run’ in a way."

— Richard J. Skelly

New Guitar Summit, McCarter Theater, 91 University Place,

609-258-2787. With John Pizzarelli, Jay Geils, Duke Robillard, and

Gerry Beaudoin. Friday, February 2, 8 p.m.

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