John Pizzarelli: Too Marvelous for Words

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John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli Quartet
Jazz Standard
July 6, 2016

John Pizzarelli displayed his brilliance as a guitar player along with his pleasant, delightfully unremarkable voice and ample personal charm at Jazz Standard, the venue tucked under Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke. The wonderful evening would have been even more so if Pizzarelli had incorporated slightly fewer anecdotes and stabs at humor as these made him come off as trying a tad too hard–he’s such a fine musician, his talents need no embroidering.

Much of the performance revolved around the songs of Johnny Mercer, including I Thought About You (music by Jimmy van Heusen); I Remember You (music by Victor Schertzinger), and Skylark, (music by Hoagy Carmichael). In each, Pizzarelli’s warmth shone through as did his original phrasing with able assists from Mike Karn on bass; Kevin Kanner on drums and Konrad Paszkudzki playing piano. Later Pizzarelli pulled out a superb version of How High the Moon, making full use of his seven-string guitar, and still later a lovely take on jazz standard Body and Soul as well as tossing in the little-heard Jamboree Jones and a rousing rendition of Goody-Goody.

Pizzarelli’s voice is unique—slightly nasal and raspy—which contributes to the personal touch he gives each lyric. At the end of the set he performed several numbers from his 2015 recording Midnight McCartney, inspired by a letter to him from Sir Paul suggesting a take on some of the former Beatle’s lesser-known works. Among the songs, Warm and Beautiful makes it pretty evident that the ex-Beatle, for all his musical chops, is no Johnny Mercer. Pleasant yes; music for the ages as in the Great American Songbook canon, not so much.

The evening was a perfect blend of up-tempo works mixed with slower, more romantic ballads, rendered in Pizzarelli’s soft voice that proves–if it needs proving–that certain music is just, as Johnny Mercer put it, “too marvelous for words.” Smooth, jazzy and classy are Pizzarelli hallmarks—long may they endure and enchant.

About the author

Mari S. Gold

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. Her blog, But I Digress… , on cultural events, travel, food  and other topics is at She lives in New York City.

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