John Pizzarelli

Live at Birdland

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This is a wonderful, warm-hearted, and effortlessly virtuosic live recording by one of the finest living exponents of pre-bop small-ensemble jazz. With pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist Martin Pizzarelli (and on two songs joined by vocalist Grover Kemble), singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli runs through a generally lightweight but thoroughly charming set of standards, homages, funny stories, and the occasional original tune; the fast tunes are light and frothy, the ballads smooth and gentle, and even the moments that are less than utterly inspired work together with the album's highlights to create a very satisfying whole. John Pizzarelli has a suit sponsor, which tells you something about what to expect of him as a singer: his voice is smooth and warm, offering a nice combination of Chet Baker's timbre and Dean Martin's fullness; as a guitarist you need to know that he favors seven-string guitars and flat-wound strings, leading him naturally to a swinging Django Reinhardt-meets-Freddie Green kind of sound. As for the trio's instrumentation, it's true that when you can comp with this kind of authority you don't technically need a drummer. But on a few tracks a drummer would have filled out the band's sound nicely. Highlights include the group's fun, slightly greasy take on "Frim Fram Sauce" and a great ode to Art Tatum called "Tea for Tatum," as well as a fine original blues composition titled "Headed Out to Vera's." Pizzarelli's own "Oh, How My Heart Beats for You" and "Day I Found You" are also wonderful. But the album's standout track is a limpidly gorgeous rendition of another original, "Better Run Before It's Spring." Pizzarelli is obviously having a blast in the intimate setting of the legendary Birdland club, and so will any jazz lover who takes the time to listen. Very highly recommended.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
0:06 Amazon
2 4:41 Amazon
3 5:31 Amazon
4 6:16 Amazon
5 4:14 Amazon
1:04 Amazon
7 3:45 Amazon
4:13 Amazon
5:22 Amazon
3:14 Amazon
11 5:05 Amazon
0:11 Amazon
13 3:14 Amazon
1:02 Amazon
15 3:49 Amazon
16 4:12 Amazon
2:31 Amazon
18 3:18 Amazon
0:29 Amazon
20 4:24 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
0:20 Amazon
2 4:30 Amazon
3 6:04 Amazon
4 4:27 Amazon
5 3:09
1:44 Amazon
7 7:41 Amazon
8 4:44 Amazon
9 3:40 Amazon
2:55 Amazon
11 3:55 Amazon
12 5:29 Amazon
0:57 Amazon
8:28 Amazon
15 3:55 Amazon
16 3:14 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick