John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey: The Heart of a Saturday Night
The real-life couple's imaginative and brilliantly executed new show at the Cafe Carlye proves to be the gold standard for nightclub performance.
This always spectacular pair (and real-life couple) provide a robust combination of musical styles that range from high-speed jazz to deeply complicated, lyric-driven theatrical arcs. Funny, always in the moment, and charming as could be with patter that never fails to entertain, they are consummate entertainers.
The distinguishing feature of this show is their unparalleled ability to combine songs in exquisitely imaginative ways that reveal new truths. Backed by three top notch musicians, Larry Fuller (piano), Martin Pizzarelli (bass), and Tony Tedesco (drums), the couple open their show with a duet they refer to as their "Bad Medley," because Molaskey sings "I Want to Be Bad" and Pizzarelli cleverly insists "It's Bad for Me." These two lesser-known songs from the Great American Songbook wryly comment on each other with cheeky good humor. By the end of the number, they have the audience enraptured.
In a show overcrowded with highlights, their inspired combination of Stephen Sondheim's "You Must Meet My Wife" and Joni Mitchell's "Conversation" is both unexpected and exhilaratingly imaginative. Choosing these songs, let alone, the piercingly perceptive way they are intercut, represent a great leap forward by these compelling artists.
Another stunning performance belonged strictly to Pizzarelli when he did a solo turn with a pair of Duke Ellington tunes: "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "East St. Louis Toodle-oo". This understated, blues-tinged arrangement was thrillingly original.
Through the years, John has given Jessica the unique musicality of jazz, while Jessica has given John the intensity of lyrics -- both are richer for the exchange. But it's the audience that benefits the most, especially when we are gifted with the brilliant combination of Irving Berlin's "Count Your Blessings" and Jonathan Larson's "Seasons of Love." These songs from two different eras that speak the same language of hope are brought together with stylish simplicity by America's premier performance couple.