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Jukebox Jackie

The John Pizzarelli Quartet with Bucky Pizzarelli

Brilliant jazz and raucous repartee mix for a magical evening at the Cafe Carlyle.

By New York City
John Pizzarelli and Bucky Pizzarelli
(© Stephen Sorokoff)
John Pizzarelli and Bucky Pizzarelli
(© Stephen Sorokoff)
Three's company, four's a bridge game, and five -- well, five is jazz heaven when the world-renowned John Pizzarelli Quartet is joined by the extraordinary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (John's dad), which is currently happening for a two-week engagement at the Café Carlyle.

The result is not just an evening of brilliant music, but also raucous (if loving) repartee -- with John teasing his dad and telling hilarious anecdotes about Paul McCartney, Les Paul, and more -- that combine to make this show a rare entertainment experience.

John has frequently held court in this storied room with his multi-talented wife Jessica Molaskey (who served as a mostly silent bystander on opening night), and their shows are full of complex pairings of songs that delight both the head and the heart. This show is somewhat simpler, if no less engaging, stressing musical melody and harmony instead of lyrics.

John does lend his signature, gently understated vocals to a few numbers, including the three tunes that kick off the show, "Three Little Words," "Coquette," and "In a Mellow Tone," along with the Lieber-Stoller pop classic "Ruby Baby" (on which Bucky, who provides sublime accompaniment, was an original session player), and, especially, a glorious pairing of Tom Waits' "Drunk on the Moon" and Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life."

But in a room that has hosted some of the world's greatest singers, what's particularly wonderful about this show is the ability to truly focus on non-vocal music, whether it's John's lead guitar playing on "Lover" or Bucky's inspired solo that pairs two other oft-heard Richard Rodgers tunes, "Easy to Remember" and "This Nearly Was Mine," and which allows these familiar melodies to sound completely fresh.

And while the majority of the 70-minute show redefines cool (no matter what the outside temperature), the room turns red-hot during the final section: an explosion of Benny Goodman tunes that permits each instrumentalist -- including pianist Larry Fuller, bassist Martin Pizzarelli, and, especially, drummer Tony Tedesco -- to let loose with their considerable gifts.

You may not want to hear anyone sing, sing, sing, but you will hear so much swing, swing, swing, it will be very hard to remain in your seats.


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