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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.

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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