Contemporary Jazz

Pizzarelli Does Duke


Assuming that the hereafter has a jazz listening station, it's a good bet that some of our favorite departed composers delight every time vocalist and guitar great John Pizzarelli announces another loving, perfectly crafted and stylized musical homage such as his delightfully inventive upcoming release Rockin' In Rhythm: A Tribute To Duke Ellington.

Over the course of nine Telarc recordings (and nearly 40 albums as a leader or part of a group), the wildly prolific son of guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli has lived up to the Boston Globe's claim that he's "reinvigorating the Great American Songbook and re-popularizing jazz" with fashionable twists on Bossa Nova, a batch of his favorite songwriters (Knowing You), Ol' Blue Eyes (Dear Mr. Sinatra) and Richard Rodgers (With A Song In My Heart). In the '90s, he tackled no less than Cole Porter (twice) and the Lennon-McCartney songbook.

For the younger Pizzarelli, exploring Ellington's mellow and high spirited tones is a sly wink to Bucky, who was heavily influenced by the legendary pianist. Much like Duke, John crafts many of his nimble and haunting guitar lines around the brilliance of his band members. Four songs on Rockin' In Rhythm showcase his powerhouse swinging quartet of pianist Larry Fuller, bassist/brother Martin Pizzarelli and drummer Tony Tedesco.

Seven tracks include the Swing Seven horns, arranged by Don Sebesky, who was nominated for his arrangement of "Johnny One Note" on the 2008 Rodgers set. Among many highlights are Bucky's solo on "Satin Doll" and the duet John's wife, recording artist Jessica Molaskey does with Kurt Elling on the sassy call and response tune "Perdido." The album hits shelves Feb. 23.