The John Pizzarelli Quartet truly scales the heights of cabaret’s jazzier side with astonishing musicianship and elan. Their current engagement at the Café Carlyle celebrates the release of their newest CD Double Exposure, featuring songs by first-class pop/rock songwriters, mashed up with elements of arrangements by the giants of jazz.
This combination is most obvious in a seamless medley of Tom Waits’ “Drunk on the Moon” with passages from Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life”. More often, Pizzarelli more subtly frames a song “in the style of” a particular jazzman. With both John and his father Bucky Pizzarelli – who will be the quartet’s special guest throughout the run – a profound musical intelligence is at work. Bucky takes a cue from John and performs a medley of Richard Rodgers in the the style of…well, Bucky Pizzarelli. Watching Bucky and John duet, which they do several times throughout the evening, is truly thrilling and very rewarding.
And then there’s a climactic Benny Goodman Medley in which John and the band solo with vigor, verve and virtuosity – especially drummer Tommy Tedesco. Goodman’s drummer was Gene Krupa, one of the most pyrotechnic drummers ever, so Tedesco is definitely allowed. Indeed, Goodman’s arrangement of “Sing, Sing, Sing” is one of the most volcanic marvels that jazz ever produced, so it would be disappointing if a band this good did anything but blow the roof off the joint. And blow the roof off they do!
Overall, the singing’s smart, the music’s deftly swung and the atmosphere sparkles. Cabaret doesn’t get much better than this.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.