Pizzarelli wants to add new chapters to Great American Songbook
John Pizzarelli is one of the performers writing a new chapter to the Great American Songbook.
While new songs always can bring life to a jazz star's act, singer/guitarist Pizzarelli is comfortable exploring new ways of doing songs by Neil Young or Seals & Crofts.
“I think I have just gotten comfortable being a presenter of song,” says the son of guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. “People who come to see me have come to know what they will get.”
Pizzarelli will bring his show Friday to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side, giving a jazz look to some pop hits, along with doing a range of other material.
While jazz performers always have found a great stock of material in the standards of composers from Cole Porter to Sammy Cahn, newer material now is finding its way into that collection of musical ammunition.
He has done the Allman Brothers' “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and blended John Lennon and Paul McCartney's “I Feel Fine” with Lee Morgan's “The Sidewinder.” He points out singer Kurt Elling doing an album of songs written by tenants of New York City's Brill Building, which has housed songwriters such as Burt Bacharach and Paul Simon.
“And then you have Tierney Sutton doing the works of Joni Mitchell, so people are always looking for a good song,” he says.
Pizzarelli, 52, like these other performers, always puts his own spin on such material. While exploring this realm of New Standards, he also sometimes takes his own look at material, such as Richard Rodgers' “You Must Be Carefully Taught.” He does that song with such a strong look at the anti-bias message in the lyrics, he jokes about one irked listener once referring to it as “that James Taylor song.”
Such is the individuality of Pizzarelli's work. While his show has the look of straight-ahead jazz, it is fresh in its presentation. He performs with pianist Larry Fuller, drummer Tony Tedesco and bassist Martin Pizzarelli, his brother. His show has grown steadily from that of a guitarist-who-sings show 20 years ago to one where he is an even blend of instrumentalist and singer.
“It feels great to be what you are and not worry,” he says about the development of his career.
He tells that story in his new memoir, “World on a String” (Wiley, $26.95), and also shares his thoughts on the weekly music-radio show, “Radio Deluxe,” heard in this area from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturdays on WJAS (1320 AM).
The best part of all his activities, he says, is performing live, where there is the most honest mix of his instrumental work, singing and song sensibility. On a record, he says, it is hard to work in guitar solos.
“In a studio, you are making a movie,” he says. “You are looking at song length, being concerned about airplay.”
Sometimes, the guitar work even gets lost. Some listeners complained, for instance, he didn't play guitar enough on his “Bossa Nova” album from 2004, he says.
But he suggests the problem was simply they couldn't see what they were hearing.
“Man, I was playing guitar on every cut,” he says. “Rhythm guitar, solos, everything.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Barbershoppers bring harmony to Pittsburgh
- ‘Boyz of Zummer’ Wiz Khalifa, Fall-Out Boy light it up at First Niagara
- Pittsburgh singer Lee spreads love through music, charitable works
- Pittsburgh native Burdell sticks to passion — bringing drumming to all
- Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa combine genres
- Lage’s guitar blends styles in magnetic manner
- Rolling Stones defy weather, time in Heinz Field show
- Tickets on sale July 10 for Lady Antebellum at First Niagara