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JAZZ REVIEW : Pizzarelli Recalls Nat Cole Trio

July 22, 1994|LEONARD FEATHER

John Pizzarelli, who brought his trio to the Jazz Bakery on Wednesday for a two-day run, followed in a sense in the hand-steps of his father, Bucky Pizzarelli, by taking out a seven-string guitar. After playing and singing in a duo with the senior Pizzarelli, he began working with his own trio and has since built up a strong following.

Now 34, he has several popular albums to his credit. Though not in a class with Bucky instrumentally, he has acquired a measure of popularity for a vocal style that brings to mind the early years of Harry Connick Jr. His timbre lacks strength, but he appeals to an audience for whom his unconventional repertoire of old standards and imaginative originals are major plus factors.

Clearly his main source of inspiration is Nat King Cole. He uses the piano-guitar-bass instrumentation first established by Cole and brings a relaxed sensitivity to such half-forgotten songs as "Beautiful Moons Ago" (by Oscar Moore, who was Cole's guitarist) and a medley of "Baby" tunes that includes Don Redman's "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You" and Bobby Troup's "Baby, Baby All the Time."

Pizzarelli introduces his material with a wit and anecdotal charm that contributes significantly to his success; in fact, he is as much essentially an entertainer as a musician. His sidemen, brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass and Ray Kennedy on piano, are adequate performers but lack the swinging creativity that set such groups as Cole's and Oscar Peterson's on the road to fame.

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