John Pizzarelli has recorded more than twenty albums since his first release in 1990. In this section you will find brief narratives, written by John, for most of the albums he has released.
Double Exposure, Pizzarelli’s latest recording on Telarc – a division of Concord Music Group – focuses on two distinct styles to make a single fine recording. Set for release on May 15, 2012, Double Exposure is a collection of tunes by some of the great pop songwriters of his own generation that are framed squarely within traditional jazz arrangements.
“I didn’t want to just cover these songs, but rather find a way to present them that was unusual and interesting’” says Pizzarelli. “I think growing up in a household that had two specific record collections became the inspiration – my father’s jazz records, my sisters’ record collection and records brought around by their friends.”
Rockin' In Rhythm -
A Tribute To Duke Ellington
(Telarc Records 2010)
Rockin' In Rhythm combines the enduring work of Duke Ellington with John Pizzarelli's incredible ability to reinterpret the Great American Songbook. Pizzarelli says, "Don Sebesky surprised us all at the session when, after the `keeper' take of `C Jam,' he said that we should `thank Pizzarelli for getting us all together to play Duke Ellington.' Well, I am grateful that when I chose to salute such an American icon as Duke Ellington, I had such tremendous friends and associates to help realize my dream."
With a Song in My Heart
After throwing in (and out) many ideas for a new CD, Richard Rodgers was chosen as the next subject. As I write in the liner notes, I really had yet to record an album of music from any of the "top tier" of the great American songwriters until this CD. There's been more Bobby Troup than Jerome Kern and more Walter Donaldson than Cole Porter for example. The CD reunites me with arranger Don Sebesky for six tracks. His arrangements for the Swing 7 are wonderful. He salutes his past collaboration with Chet Baker on two sides - the title track and "She Was Too Good to Me." The former includes a harmonized shout chorus of chet's trumpet solo on same.The latter, a harmonics guitar solo. Cesar Camargo Mariano plays "Happy Talk" in duet with me, and my father, Bucky pizzarelli, joins me on "Easy To Remember." Larry Fuller makes his first appearance on CD with the quartet, along with Martin Pizzarelli on bass and Tony Tedsco on drums, and plays beautifully on "I Like to Recognize the Tune" (to name one) as well as throughout. John Mosca, Tony Kadleck, Andy Fusco and Kenny Berger round out the Swing 7 and their group playing is reminiscent of Marty Paich's small ensemble's of the 50's and 60's thanks to Mr.Sebesky's terrific writing. Songs include: "Mountain Greenery"; "This Can't Be Love"; "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Johnny One Note."
(Arbors Records 2007)
This duo CD is collection of songs that mean a lot to my father and me. They recall many artists that we have worked with over the years, either separately or together. The opening track "Fred", was penned by Neil Hefti and played often by my dad's longtime friend and associate - Zoot Sims. "At Sundown" I first heard played on an album called "Buck and Bud". The "Bud" being tenor man, Bud Freeman. "Avalon" was always the opener for Benny Goodman when I heard my dad with him and it was also the song the three of us jammed on in the King of Swing's living room once. I recall many Saturday mornings as a child listening to my dad play classical guitar and he includes two of those pieces on this CD. It was and continues to be a learning experience playing with my father and musically for me it can't be beat.
Dear Mr. Sinatra
What was originally going to be an Ellington CD turned into a Sinatra CD because of two gigs. One out in LA where John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton asked me to help out in a Count Basie salute with their band. They wanted me to do some Sinatra tunes and the chart for "Ring a Ding Ding" was penned by John. I was then asked to accompany their band to Japan and more Sinatra material was added. I also already had "Witchcraft" (arr-Sebesky) and "In the Wee Small Hours" (arr-Quincy Jones) in my book and we were half way home. So Sinatra it was! Over a period of three days we recorded to Gus Skinas's 32 track Sony Digital (the first one of its kind) and the record was done. Quite a unique sound the CHJO has and it's captured wonderfully on this CD. Bucky provides stellar rhythm guitar, too.
I got to record songs that I'd been dying to get to for years with musicians who have inspired me. Again, Cesar Mariano on "The Shadow of Your Smile"; Tony Monte, with whom I did my first gig in NYC on "New Sun in the Sky"; Larry Goldings, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen and my father. Some of my favorite cuts are "God Only Knows", "Ain't That a Kick in the Head", "Eastwood Lane" and "Say it Over and Over Again."
A wonderful record from the start of the recording process to the release of the CD. Thanks to Russ Titelman making the studio conditions optimal and the luck of literally running into Brasilians at the time of recording and ended up making significant contributions - Paolo Braga on drums, Cesar Camargo Mariano - piano and Daniel Jobim - vocal. Don Sebesky added the flutes and strings wonderfully. It was a joy to celebrate the Bossa Nova for all of my friends in Brasil whose support and love spawned this cd.
Live at Birdland
This CD celebrates the hard work that Ray, Martin and I have put in for the past ten years (as of 2003). The idea was to capture where the group has been and where it is headed. Included are trio versions of "Three Little Words," "Stompin' at the Savoy" (the Conan O'Brien version), "Baby Medley" and "Paper Moon." Grover Kemble joins us in a performance of "Headed Out to Vera's," which I co-wrote with him. On disc 2 we performed new material or previously unrecorded material for the trio. Those songs include "Rhode Island Is Famous For You," two James Taylor songs ("Mean Old Man" and "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight"), "The Song Is You," "Isn't It a Pity," and "We'll Take Manhattan," to name a few. Also included are a number of stories I have told between songs to give you an idea of what a night with the trio is like from top to bottom.
Best of John Pizzarelli
Some random thoughts on my first three CDs (Originally LP's released on CD in 2002)
I was really looking for my voice on these CD's. The very first one, "I'm Hip", was made in a day. Got into the studio at 10, left around 5 with a cassette. 10 songs mostly Nat Cole with Michael Franks and Joe Mooney thrown in for good measure. The second - "Hit That Jive Jack", had me straying a bit from where I started. A number of cuts feature Butch Miles, Dave McKenna, Jerry Bruno and my dad whereas the other half features Gary Haase on bass and Steve Ferrera on drums. More of a backbeat on those cuts as opposed to the straight ahead swing of the other rhythm section. Haase and Ferrera joined pianist, Ken Levinsky and myself to record "Sing Sing Sing", probably the weakest of the three (not because of them). Looking back 25 years to the first LP (now CD), I ended up returning to what made the first album succesful - economy, great jazz a sense of swing and a sense of humor. It's an interesting look at my 20's. I was hearing so many different styles of music and trying to incorporate them into the records - especially the last two of this group. It really made the third one a mess. Pop grooves, swing, bossa nova, overdubs - just a little crazy. BUT...Eddie Daniels plays an amazing solo on "Sing Sing Sing" and tenor sax on my original (co-written with Amanda Homi) "Couldn't You Read My Mind." Hugh McCracken plays harmonica on "Better Run Before It's Spring" (my melody written to a Linda Rose lyric) on "Hit That Jive, Jack." McKenna is amazing on the title track of "Hit That Jive, Jack" as is Butch Miles on drums.
Sing Sing Sing
(Pony Canyon 2002)
Hit That Jive Jack
(Pony Canyon 2002)
(Pony Canyon 2002)
The Rare Delight of You
This CD could have been called "When Dreams Come True." To work with the world famous George Shearing Quintet and trade fours with Mr. Shearing was truly a rare delight. George's arrangements, some culled from previous records (If Dreams Come True and Be Careful It's My Heart) of his and others (Lemon Twist, Something To Remember You By) brand-new, are really inspired and original. His piano playing on the CD is just marvelous. Check out his "Lost April" and "Indian Summer." I have no single favorites on this CD. I just put it on and enjoy the whole thing.
Let There Be Love
Let There Be Love is a "romantic," easy-swinging CD - a collection of seventy years of songwriting on the subject of love from "Just One More Chance" (1931), to "Our Love Rolls On" (1979), to our own originals. Great solos from Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen and Bucky, not to mention Tony Tedesco on phone book. Andrew Southam's terrific photographs round out the release.
Kisses in the Rain
Kisses in the Rain is the first CD on the Telarc Label. It is a CD that represents all that the trio has done on the road for the past seven years, yet hadn't a chance to record. Highlights include "I Got Rhythm," "I'm In The Mood For Love," 'Should I," and "Oscar Night," written by Ray Kennedy. A well-recorded and performed CD, I think it really captures the spirit of the group.
John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles
This is probably the most talked about CD I have made. The idea was to place the songs into a different time as if someone else had performed them first. For instance, "Can't Buy Me Love" was a Woody Herman tune (hence, the Woodchopper's Ball references), "Things We Said Today" was in the Moondance groove, "Here Comes The Sun" was a Jobim/Getz tribute, and so on. It is really a CD I am proud of, from Don Sebesky's great arrangements (once again) to the terrific performances from the string players, big band members, soloists and trio. This CD was also #1 on the Swing Journal jazz charts in Japan and was released with two different songs in Canada. The Canadian version features the songs "You Can't Do That" and "Got To Get You Into My Life." They were nixed from the American release in favor of "Eleanor Rigby" and "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away." We also did a terrific concert for Canadian TV of the Beatle CD live entitled John Pizzarelli Chante Les Beatles. It has run on the BET on Jazz channel and features a Canadian big band and strings conducted by Don Sebesky.
P.S. Mr. Cole
P.S. Mr. Cole is the last CD of the RCA years. Originally made to accompany a Japanese tour, this CD visits some of the more obscure, less traveled roadways of the "King" Cole songbook. Songs include "Meet Me In No Special Place," "The Late Late Show," "Welcome to the Club," and new versions of "Errand Boy for Rhythm," "I Know That You Know," and "For Sentimental Reasons." As a bonus, this CD includes the ever-popular live version of "I Like Jersey Best," which is best left heard than explained. A fun CD, it is also the first CD that features Ray, Martin and myself solely, with a guest appearance from Harry Allen on tenor sax.
Let's Share Christmas
This CD was the brainstorm of A&R man Ron Fair (who now produces and arranges Christina Aguilera). He wanted me to make a CD with the top arrangers of pop and jazz music over the last forty years, and honestly, expense was no object. We used Johnny Mandel, Claire Fisher, Don Sebesky, Ralph Burns, Dick Lieb, Michael Legrand, Patrick Williams, Torrie Zito and John Clayton. It was a tremendous experience playing with all the musicians from LA, NYC and France (Michael Legrand's orchestra arrived at 2PM that day and was in the studio at seven!).
Our Love is Here to Stay
This CD was the result of a live gig I did at The Blue Note in NYC in December of 1996. We were playing there to promote our Christmas CD, with a big band conducted by Don Sebesky. We didn't just play Christmas songs; Don took some live tapes of the trio and wrote some arrangements to the trio stuff and we were off to the races. He wrote "Avalon," "Little Girl," "Kalamazoo" and "Nina Never Knew" for the gig which was a thrilling week that included members of the Vangard Jazz Orchestra, Dennis Mackrel on drums, Tom Harrell on trumpet and Jim Pugh on trombone. On the breaks of the gig, Don and I would discuss material and that's where we came up with "Honey Pie" for the CD.
After Hours was originally a demo of songs we recorded as a result of a conversation on a plane. Ray Kennedy and I were talking about our favorite ballads on a plane ride home from Paris. We wrote down our top seven and went to our friend Jim Czak at Nola Recording Studios in NYC and made a demo of them with Joe Cocuzzo (drums), Martin, Harry Allen and myself and Ray. We wanted to create an after hours kind of mood. After playing the demo for Mr. Hirakawa, he decided he wanted it as a follow-up to Dear Mr. Cole in Japan. We added Randy Sandke on trumpet and my father Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar. The rhythm section playing on this CD is unparalleled.
Dear Mr. Cole
This CD was made exclusively for the Japanese market, the brainstorm of BMG representative Ikuyoshi Hirakawa. He wanted me to record the favorite songs of Nat Cole as voted by the readers of the Japanese jazz magazine Swing Journal. They also voted on the trio they wanted to record it and that was myself, Christian McBride (bass) and Benny Green (piano). We recorded it over a two-day period in NYC at Clinton Studios. The CD was received very well in Japan and was subsequently released on the heels of New Standards in the states.
This was my first CD with a producer other than myself. Brooks Arthur, recommended to me by Steve Backer from the label, came out to my house and brought about 40 songs tapes with him and was great in letting me have my input and conveying his ideas. It is really a pop song CD with great jazz played on it. I particularly like Ray Kennedy's "Just a Skosh" and "Why Do People Fall In Love," by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. That arrangement is my first encounter with Don Sebesky. It is also the first time we start to hear a more cohesive song writing element to the Pizzarelli CD's. "Oh, How My Heart Beats For You," a nightly set starter, appears on this CD, as well as "I'm Your Guy," a collaboration with two of my song writing friends, Joe Cosgriff ( of "I Like Jersey Best" fame) and Grover Kemble. "Fools Fall In Love" is probably the favorite of all the fans I have met along the way. It swings from top to bottom, arranged by Jimmy Wisner with a tip of the cap to the sound of Donald Fagan's "Walk Between the Raindrops." "Better Run Before It's Spring" gets a second reading on this CD. First heard on Hit That Jive Jack this song was written by Linda Rose with a John Pizzarelli medley.
This CD came after a two-week stint at the Montreal Jazz Festival with a 17-piece band up there. I felt much more comfortable singing with the band, and I had a better idea of what it was going to sound like. I also liked my song selection for the second CD and from working with Dick Leib was able to communicate my ideas better to him. I particularly like "Splendid Splinter" and "Baby Medley" (which also contains terrific Walt Levinsky lead alto playing.)
All of Me
This was a pretty adventurous first outing with a major label, I guess. The Dick Leib arrangements are terrific and there are some great individual performances, too. Walt Levinsky's lead alto playing on "The More I See You" is simply great. John Frosk's lead trumpet playing and the trombone playing of Jim Pugh are excellent. A majority of this band had played for Frank Sinatra the previous weekend in Atlantic City, so they were truly primed for this CD.
My Blue Heaven
I had made three records (vinyl!) for a small label in NYC in the 80's and was working around NYC for a while, when my father asked me to come with him to an office where there were these two gentlemen named Norman and David Chesky who wanted to make a jazz CD. They had recorded Clark Terry, Phil Woods and Paquito D'Rivera and wanted a fourth CD in the style of Django and Stephane. My father got Chicago violinist Johnny Frigo and Butch Miles (drums). Michael Moore and Ron Carter split the bass chair. We made the CD, Live From Studio A over a period of two days at RCA (now the home of the IRS). David Chesky at that time told me he was looking for a male vocalist for the label and I asked him to come hear my trio at J's, a popular upper West Side jazz club where I held forth on Thursdays for about two years. He heard one set and as I walked over to him he said, "We'll get your dad, Clark Terry and Milt Hilton and get you into the studio whenever you are ready." It was quite a shock! We got the great Connie Kay (from the MJQ) to play drums and rounded out the section with Dave McKenna on piano (who happened to be in town that week). The sound of the record is marvelous, as are the performances of Clark, Milt, Bucky, Connie, and Dave. Quite a daunting task to perform staring at a Who's Who in jazz, but thrilling and quite a lesson.