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JAZZ REVIEW

Pizzarellis, at home

August 14, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Jazz and cabaret, with their fascination for the Great American Songbook, appear to have a great deal in common. Frequently they do. But too often musicians who profess expertise in both genres simply use one as a disguise for the other.

Not so guitarist John Pizzarelli. He has little need to do anything more than rip off his fast flying improvisations and sing with the brightly rhythmic style that have placed him in the top echelon of male jazz vocalists.

On Tuesday night he opened a two-week run at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill with a show -- "The First Family of Cool" (Pizzarelli described it as "the Von Trapp family on martinis") -- that brilliantly blended the wit and drama of cabaret with the swing and soul of jazz.

The title (either one) reflects the family lineup: Pizzarelli was joined by his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, brother Martin playing bass and guitarist-father Bucky as featured artist. Pianist Ray Kennedy (a 10-year member of Pizzarelli's trio) was treated as an honorary family member.

Presented in various combinations -- trios, duos, etc. -- the music overflowed with highlights: the trio's romp through standards; Molaskey's touching rendering of "The Girl With His Smile and My Eyes" (written with her husband); Bucky's elegant soloing on "Coquette" and "Body and Soul." All of it brought together by Pizzarelli's loopy humor, especially in a climactic "I Like Jersey Best," with his impressions of everyone from Bob Dylan and Paul Simon to Marcel Marceau and Lou Reed.

The combination of jazz and cabaret doesn't get any better than this -- music that touches the heart, lifts the spirit and keeps the feet tapping.

*

John Pizzarelli & the Pizzarelli Family

Where: Feinstein's at the Cinegrill, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel,

7000 Hollywood Blvd.,

Hollywood

When: Tonight through Aug. 23. Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.

Price: $35 plus $30 minimum beverage or dinner purchase

Info: (323) 769-7269

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