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John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey: When Worlds Collide

The married couple's latest show at the Cafe Carlyle presents brilliant pairings of seemingly unrelated songs and jazz-tinged takes on pop standards.

By New York City
Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli
Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli, jazz guitarist extraordinaire, and Jessica Molaskey, the brilliant Broadway songbird with a fondness for 1970s pop, first had their worlds collide when they co-starred in the short-lived Broadway musical Dream -- which subsequently resulted in a blissful musical and martial pairing.

In their fifth outing at the Cafe Carlyle, the aptly-titled When Worlds Collide, the duo once again presents pairings of seemingly unrelated songs and jazz-tinged takes on pop standards that serve as a potent reminder of how lucky we are to be beneficiaries of their cosmic union.

While the show is a little bit of a "greatest hits" compendium -- many of the selections have been performed on this stage before or recorded on one of the singers' many albums -- there's nothing one isn't thrilled to hear for the first time or the fiftieth time.

The cleverness of their medleys never cease to amaze, even the ones I practically have memorized: "Cloudburst" set atop "Getting Married Today"; Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar's "I Want to Be Happy" paired deliciously with the team's "Sometimes I'm Happy"; Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" interspersed with Antonio Carlos Jobim's "The Waters of March"; "Shine On Harvest Moon" joined to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon"; and James Taylor's "Traffic Jam" augmented with Molaskey's lyrics set to Joe Henderson's "The Kicker."

Raising the game, which hardly seems possible, is a magnificent pairing of Billy Joel's "Rosalinda's Eyes" with Stephen Sondheim's "In Buddy's Eyes" -- sung almost as a dual narration of two lovers who exist primarily in the feelings they inspire in each other.

The couple's appreciation for the pop-rock genre -- not always found in this tiny room -- comes through with crystalline clarity in Pizzarelli's gently swinging version of the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love"; an instrumental take on the Allman Brothers' "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"; and a gorgeous, deceptively simple version of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" -- with Pizzarelli's understated vocals in glorious counterpoint to Larry Fuller's elegant solo piano accompaniment.

And yet nothing matches the two Paul Simon songs that conclude the show: Molaskey's blistering yet sympathetic take on "Hearts and Bones" -- the author's gimlet-eyed examination of his marriage to Carie Fisher -- and the duo's joyously exuberant take on "Gone at Last." Make sure to catch this show before it's gone for good!


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