I have previously described the gifted husband and wife team of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey as using a very satisfying “fire and ice” approach. In their current cabaret act at the Cafe Carlyle, however, the pair meld these opposites even more seamlessly, emulating the cool heat of a bourbon on the rocks. The Pizzarellis long ago reached very height of cabaret’s jazzier side, and just keep climbing higher, with John’s profound musical intelligence and nonpareil guitar playing and Jessica’s dazzling lyrical wit and increasingly soulful singing aiding their ascent.
The Pizzarellis compound their musical elements with the utmost elegance. Their new show focuses on the theme of “home”, and indeed their version of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” is the best I’ve ever heard, with more raw emotion and brisker musicianship than the original – there’s that cool heat again! As is their wont, they mix familiar standards and contemporary pop-rock tunes, often pairing the old with the new in ingenious medleys and intricate combinations that are too complex and sophisticated to be called mash-ups.
Their band is one of the best in the business: when they launch into Al Jolson’s “Avalon”, John and the band solo with a vigor, verve and virtuosity that’s truly breathtaking to behold – Jessica uses comic understatement when she comments that this number is “just a little showy.” The Pizzarellis sing so smartly, swing so deftly and generally create a truly sparkling atmosphere – cabaret rarely gets much better than this.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.