John Pizzarelli's Rockin' In Rhythm CD Review - by J. Blake

Posted on 3/09/2010 by J. Blake

(New York, NY)

John Pizzarelli has been called one of today’s “prime interpreters of the American Songbook” as well as a “jazz guitar virtuoso” and even “The Sultan of Swing”…ok, maybe I made that last one up, but it certainly is a title that fits. Whether it is playing guitar duets with his legendary father, leading his trio or quartet, fronting a big band or an orchestra or backing the likes of Rosemary Clooney and even James Taylor, Mr. Pizzarelli has been at the forefront of American jazz for over 25 years. His ability to interpret a lyric is masterful and his guitar-style brilliantly blends the technical proficiency that the genre has become known for, with an energy, feeling and soulfulness that is more a kin to the blues greats than many of today’s modern jazz “heroes”.

With his latest Telarc release, ROCKIN’ IN RHYTHM, Pizzarelli honors one of jazz’s most beloved and greatest stars, Duke Ellington. No stranger to the “tribute album”, the 49 year-old guitar-playing-crooner approaches this latest studio effort with the same amount of detail, care and unpredictability that made his previous tributes to Nat ‘King’ Cole, Frank Sinatra and Richard Rogers wonderfully unique and specific. Unlike so many albums celebrating the work of a single artist, Pizzarelli consistently manages to put his own personal stamp on familiar favorites while also highlighting slightly less recognized (and often forgotten) gems.

East St. Louis Toodle-On” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” get the John Pizzarelli treatment here by being skillfully woven into a single track; while not only paying tribute to “The Duke”, but also Steely Dan, whose 1974 recording of “East St. Louis Toodle-On” admittedly served as inspiration of this album’s arrangement. Other laidback highlights include a solo-guitar rendition of “Just Squeeze Me” and “Satin Doll”, which features some of the album’s most beautiful guitar-work; courtesy of Pizzarelli’s legendary father Bucky.

Ballads and vocal standards aside, Pizzarelli and his horn-heavy band, affectionately known as the “Swing 7”, are at their best when they are living up to their title and thankfully a tribute album to one the finest big band leaders of all time is the perfect venue. “C Jam Blues” (featuring saxophonist Harry Allen and violinist Aaron Weinstein) and a medley of “Cottontail” and “Rockin’ in Rhythm” (serving as the album’s finale) highlight not only the music of a jazz legend and the individual talents of a magnificent band, but also the art of swing and bebop. Pizzarelli is in top form here as he and conductor/arranger Don Sebesky navigate their seemingly fearless crew through well-charted, yet still treacherous waters. These tracks alone are worth the price of the CD and as a bit of a suggestion; when you’re listening to them...turn it up!

ROCKIN’ IN RHTYHM expertly explores the work of one of America’s greatest musical treasures and Pizzarelli once again proves that he’s not just a talented guitarist and singer, but a gifted artist, interpreter and leader. This is jazz at its finest.

*other guests on the album include vocalists Kurt Elling & Jessica Molaskey

John Pizzarelli and The Swing 7 will be performing at the historic Birdland jazz club in NYC from tonight (Tuesday, March 9th) through Saturday, March 13th. Visit for more information.

*If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy: The First Family of Jazz

Thanks and keep reading American Blues News!!!

Copyright © 2010 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved

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