Jazz musician, raconteur has stories tell

2013-02-14T00:00:00Z Jazz musician, raconteur has stories tellChuck Graham Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Jazz had a happy face back when guitarist-singer John Pizzarelli was growing up in the household of his father, renowned guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. It was the 1970s and famous musicians were dropping by all the time.

Les Paul lived just down the street. Benny Goodman was on Bucky's Christmas card list.

Angry improvisers and malcontents of atonality weren't a part of the younger Pizzarelli's musical life. For that we can be thankful as UApresents brings the grown-up John Pizzarelli Quartet to the Fox Tucson Theater Saturday.

On stage with Pizzarelli are his younger brother Martin playing bass, Larry Fuller on piano and Tony Tedesco behind the drums. "This will be my first trip to Tucson, so I have lots of stories nobody has heard," Pizzarelli said with a chuckle, on the phone from his Manhattan home.

There is no shortage of insider tales for this congenial musician. With so much home-grown material, he has easily earned the reputation of a jazz raconteur. In fact, his autobiography "World on a String" was released a few months ago.

Pizzarelli says his performance will include several songs from his newest album, "Double Exposure." That title comes from his idea of taking pop hits from the 1960s-80s and presenting them with a swinging jazz sound from the 1950s.

An example posted online is the track "I Feel Fine" (the Beatles' hit) propelled by a blues-thumping horn section line that Pizzarelli took from Lee Morgan's hit recording "Sidewinder."

Pizzarelli promised to play about six cuts from "Double Exposure." The rest of his 90-minute show will include a dip into personal stories and songs associated with Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and others.

Who can't love the story of this fortunate young man sitting with his guitar in Goodman's living room.

"All the jazz I heard at home was being played at the highest level, so if I wanted to join in I had to always bring my best game," Pizzarelli said proudly.

After more than 20 years as a solo artist at the virtuoso level, proving that pop hits of recent decades can be turned into quality jazz tracks, the guitarist sees this music attracting a younger audience once again.

"When I first started out, we were playing for the pre-rock 'n' roll generation. But now there are all ages in the audience. "I think it's because of the Internet, and all the jazz classes that are offered in college. You can hear about all the classic players, and then go on YouTube to see their videos.

"People send me video clips of my father all the time … and of me, too," he added cheerfully. Consider John Pizzarelli one of the neo-classical players.


• What: John Pizzarelli Quartet in concert.

• Presented by: UApresents.

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.

• Tickets: $30 to $40.

• Reservations, information: uapresents.org or 621-3341.

Chuck Graham is a Tucson-based arts writer. Contact him at chuck@tucsonstage.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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