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Their Own Bossas

John and Jeanne Pisano form a perfect union in marriage and Brazilian music.


Those of you who follow this column know of my fondness for John and Jeanne Pisano. There are good reasons why I've written about the guitarist and singer who are musical as well as married partners--their way with classic standards and Brazilian tunes has both an incredible smoothness and a wonderful lilt. The teaming of Jeanne's luxurious alto and John's resourceful, empathetic guitar playing makes listening to them a pleasure.

The pair, who perform under the title The Flying Pisanos, used to be heard only now and then in the Valley, despite the fact that they live on a hilltop high in Studio City. A happy event it is, then, that each Saturday for the past six months the musicians have been playing a new performance venue in our midst: Papashon in Encino. The Pisanos have been performing on Wednesdays at the original Papashon in Pasadena for two years.

There's an old saw that time brings about a change, and musicians are not exempt. In the case of the Pisanos, they've found that as they perform together, things just get easier, and more rewarding.

"When you work two times a week, you're bound to grow," said John, a founding member of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass and a longtime associate of the great guitarist Joe Pass. "You start listening on a whole other level, and you don't have to worry about arrangements. You start responding with your whole body. And I get to be the rhythm section, and doing that has shown me new, exciting ways to go. When I hear the stuff we're doing compared to two and a half years ago, it knocks me out."

Renditions of tunes are different now. Take "Amanhecer," a Pisano original, which means "daybreak" in Portuguese. "John wrote that as a bossa nova and he had become bored with it, and we weren't doing it," said Jeanne, a lifelong singer who mainly taught before she married Pisano five years ago. "So I suggested we do it rubato and in a different key and he started to have fun with it again."

"That's what we're trying to do," John chimed in, sitting next to his wife in an interview. "Take material and do it in a manner that makes it fresh."

On a given night, the pair might offer such numbers as "Amanhecer," "One Note Samba," " 'Round Midnight," "My Ship" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." The arrangements are generally by John, who acknowledged that his skills in this area are growing, too. "It's taken me a long time to realize things I'm good at; things I wouldn't have thought of as good arrangements actually are."

Jazz at Papashon in Encino expands to two nights a week when John Pisano's Guitar Series kicks off Tuesday. Inspired by the Monday guitar nights at the defunct Donte's in North Hollywood, where John was a regular, the series begins with solo guitar from the legendary George Van Eps, and continues with such L.A. area stalwarts as Frank Potenza on Sept. 30, Joe DiOrio on Oct. 6 and Barry Zweig on Oct. 14. The latter three will interact with, and be accompanied by, Pisano, who revels in the duo-guitar setting. One of his first albums, made in 1959, was with guitarist Billy Bean, and his latest, "Among Friends," also spotlights fellow guitarists.

"When one guitar backs another, it can really feel like a rhythm section," said Pisano. "Things almost always fall into place."

* John and Jeanne Pisano appear 7:30 to 11 p.m. Saturdays at Papashon, 15910 Ventura Blvd., Encino; no cover, no minimum. John Pisano's Guitar Series begins Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. Call (818) 783-6664.


Short Takes: Cecilia Coleman's reinvigorated fivesome will undoubtedly offer some new selections when it performs at Jazz Celebrations, held 6:30 p.m. Sunday, at First Lutheran Church, 1300 East Colorado St., Glendale; donations appreciated; (818) 240-9000 . . .

Ralph Penland is one of Southern California's most inventive, and intuitive, drummers. He's also a dandy composer; that side of his special talent emerges when he leads his vital quintet, the Penland Polygon. The band makes one of its infrequent appearances tonight, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Chadney's, 3000 W. Olive St., Burbank; no cover, one drink minimum per show; (818) 843-5333.

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