As an antidote to the faux-swing movement of the Nineties (led by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, et al.), the John Pizzarelli Quartet is most effective. Who would have thought that the more satisfying interpreters of swing would come from the jazz angle rather than from rock and roll?
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Guitarist/vocalist Pizzarelli's approach works because it is built on impeccable rhythmic detail. Nothing is muddled, and every note is on display at appropriate volumes, usually within a sparse, or at least temperate, arrangement. He makes sure that every moment in the music is well groomed and sharply dressed. Some of these sensibilities are clearly inherited from his father, traditional jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. Like Bucky, John performs in a land of perfect tempo and understated rhythmic playfulness. The father-son duo share a sense of comfort and ease on barnburners and ballads alike on Contrasts, released in January 2006. Through his decades-long dedication to this music, Pizzarelli Sr. has inadvertently drawn a direct line from the great old-time guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Barry Galbraith, and George Van Eps to himself. Not far-fetched, then, that he would extend the line further, to his own progeny.
To assess John Pizzarelli the vocalist, simply check his latest album, Dear Mr. Sinatra. A young, swingin' singer takes a shot at eleven songs popularized by Frank Sinatra, most of them written with the Chairman in mind. The concept sounds like a recipe for disaster. But by avoiding any attempts at imitation, or even tribute, Pizzarelli, backed here by the fine Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, makes it work. And proving he is both daring and smart, his team of arrangers on the album includes Quincy Jones. Andrés Solar
John Pizzarelli Quartet
The John Pizzarelli Quartet performs at 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. Friday, December 29, and Saturday, December 30, at the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club, 6701 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. Admission is $35. For more information, call 305-865-5775 or visit www.arturosandovaljazzclub.com.