Being asked by Sir Paul McCartney to reimagine and rerecord his songs isn’t an easy task, even after having collaborated countless times before on both recordings and performances. But that’s the task that John Pizzarelli was given, and he approaches these tunes with delicacy and warmth, writing smooth jazz arrangements for songs like “Silly Love Songs,” “My Valentine” and “Hi Hi Hi” with the help of pianist Larry Goldings and wife, Jessica Molaskey.
Pizzarelli performs these songs as guitarist and vocalist, retaining McCartney’s crooning pop vocal tone. His voice is reminiscent of Chet Baker’s vocal quality, but shines with less heartbreak.
One aspect that Pizzarelli successfully captures is the authenticity and purity in McCartney’s songs. His rendition of “Silly Love Songs” and “Junk” are ‘sentimental jamboree[s],’ gently balancing and shifting between guitar and vocal melodies. Pizzarelli performs the apologetic tone in “Some People Never Know” with tranquility, and demonstrates his vocal range and control in the challenging, “No More Lonely Nights,” the standout track of the album; he handles the song with grace and uplifting brilliance. It’s a brilliant song choice from an intimidatingly large discography.
The arrangements of the tracks are also imaginative, transforming “My Valentine” into a bossanova track, and adding Michael McDonald’s bluesy vocals in “Coming Up” to create a saucy swing tune. Even with these jazz renditions, Pizzarelli keeps the elements which makes these songs signature McCartney’s songs, for example in “Maybe I’m Amazed,” the singing is kept in the style of McCartney and is perfectly delivered. The album succeeds as a fresh body of work, bringing new energy into old songs.
– Jason Kwan - website
When Paul McCartney wrote John Pizzarelli a letter suggesting he record an album of the former Beatle’s songs, the jazz guitarist and singer quickly signed on. A video for one of those songs, “Let ’Em In,” premieres today on Speakeasy.
Piano anchored the original version, which opened McCartney’s 1976 album with Wings, “Wings at the Speed of Sound.” Pizzarelli shortens the tune and makes it swing, with splashy hi-hat cymbals, horn accents and a lithe piano part. Pizzarelli’s vocals have a studied nonchalance, and he scat-sings along with his fluid guitar solo.
Though the song is McCartney’s, the arrangement owes a debt to bassist Ray Brown Jr., who used something similar on his version of the jazz standard “Squatty Roo.” “I heard the same arrangement played by the Clayton Hamilton jazz Orchestra,” Pizzarelli says by email. “Konrad Paszkudzki and Kevin Kanner (my quartet’s pianist and drummer) are big devotees of those guys as am I, and had a working knowledge of those charts. I thought the arrangement worked really well” for “Let ’Em In.”
Pizzarelli played guitar on McCartney’s 2012 album of standards, “Kisses on the Bottom,” and has also backed him onstage. Though McCartney envisioned “lesser-known tunes” for the covers project, Pizzarelli considered all his options when he and wife Jessica Molaskey and pianist Larry Goldings combed through McCartney’s catalog for the songs that would comprise the album, “Midnight McCartney.” (Molaskey co-produced the album.)
“As it always is with me, if we come up with something interesting and it works, it goes on the CD,” Pizzarelli says. “It’s always trial and error and also how the lyrics work.”
“Midnight McCartney” is due Sept. 11 on Concord Records. What do you think of Pizzarelli’s version of “Let ’Em In?” Leave your thoughts in the comments.
By ERIC R. DANTON - Wall Street Journal
Paul McCartney had a great idea for an album. He just needed the world-renowned guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli to make it.
“I got an idea got in my head,” McCartney wrote to Pizzarelli in late May 2014. “It might be interesting for you to do a few of my songs that are lesser known than some of the others. I realize this may be a little immodest, if not pushy.” “I imagine the songs would include post-Beatles melodies of mine like ‘Love in the Open Air’ (from the soundtrack to 1967 film The Family Way), ‘Junk,’ ‘Warm and Beautiful’ and, possibly, ‘My Valentine.’”
“My Valentine” was the one McCartney composition on his album of songs from the '30s and '40s, Kisses on the Bottom (MPL/Hear Music/Concord). Pizzarelli played guitar on the album and backed Sir Paul on a handful of prestigious live performances, including the GRAMMY Awards, MusiCares Person of the Year gala and the initial iTunes/Apple TV live broadcast. Hailed as one of the prime contemporary interpreters of the Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli has expanded his repertoire by performing the music of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Antônio Carlos Jobim and Lennon-McCartney.
McCartney concluded in his letter, “The attraction for me is lesser-known tunes done in a mellow jazz style and, if it gets some traction, maybe the album could be titled Midnight McCartney. As I said, this may tickle your fancy or you may decide these are the ramblings of a deranged composer with too much time on his hands.”
To say Pizzarelli was tickled is putting it mildly... READ MORE
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