Born: April 6, 1960 Primary Instrument: Guitar
John Pizzarelli has cultivated a winning international career by singing classic standards and late-night ballads, and by playing sublime and inventive guitar. Using greats like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and the songs of writers like Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen as touchstones, Pizzarelli is among the prime revivalists of the great American songbook, bringing to his work the cool jazz flavor of his brilliant guitar playing.
Born on April 6, 1960, in Paterson, New Jersey, Pizzarelli has been playing guitar since age six, following in the tradition of his father, guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli. Hanging out with his father, John was exposed to all the great jazz music of the era, from Erroll Garner and Les Paul to Django Reinhardt. He began playing with his father at age 20, then went out on his own. Since 1992, the John Pizzarelli Trio has toured extensively. In 1993, they were honored to open for Frank Sinatra's international tour and then joined in the celebration for his 80th birthday at Carnegie Hall.
John Pizzarelli s voice has continued to develop with time, displaying both charm and humor. He has recorded as a bandleader for RCA, Chesky, Stash and Novus, and in 1997 appeared in the Broadway musical Dream, a revue of Johnny Mercer songs. Along the way, Pizzarelli has earned rave reviews. The John Pizzarelli Trio has never been tighter, and Pizzarelli himself has never been looser, the Village Voice said of a recent New York show. We can say we re as lucky to listen to (Pizzarelli) as Nat Cole fans were in the years before he became a legend. Pizzarelli was also named Jazz Vocalist of the Year by Swing Journal in their Readers Poll.
For Pizzarelli, the comparison to the Nat King Cole Trio is the highest of compliments. I ve always said in my concerts that Nat King Cole is why I do what I do. But Pizzarelli quickly adds, We aren t trying to copy him. That sound was so singular and inspired. I ve always said we re an extension, a new version of what that group was. In fact, Pizzarelli devoted his Dear Mr. Cole album to music made famous by the beloved song stylist. Pizzarelli s catalogue of albums also includes a touching cycle of torch ballads (After Hours), an album featuring originals along with classic jazz and swing (Our Love is Here to Stay), and a Christmas collection (Let's Share Christmas). In 1999, Pizzarelli s trio was featured in the Goldie Hawn/ Steve Martin comedy film The Out of Towners, performing That Old Black Magic.
On one of his last projects for RCA, John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles, he brought classic Beatles songs into the worlds of swing and smoky balladry. Now Pizzarelli is gaining almost as much commercial success as the Beatles well, success with a commercial anyway. A spot for Foxwoods Casino has made Pizzarelli a recognizable face. In the Northeast, I can see people staring at me on the street. It s a great tune, he enthuses of the Don Sebesky-arranged number. And people are calling the casino to ask who s that guy singing? If I'm going to be associated with a jingle, I'm happy that at least it s something I like.
Pizzarelli signed with the GRAMMY Award winning label Telarc International at the end of 1999 and in February 2000 debuted Kisses in the Rain, a diverse set of standards and original tunes that showcases the spontaneity of his live performances within a studio setting. His trio, with Ray Kennedy on piano and younger brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, performs George Gershwin's I Got Rhythm, Dorothy Fields I'm In The Mood For Love and Jimmy Van Heusen's I Thought About You. Pizzarelli s familiarity with the American songbook is so complete that even his own songs I Wouldn t Trade You and the title ballad sound at home beside the classics.
His second Telarc recording, the intimate and unabashedly romantic Let There Be Love, was released in November 2000 and features Kennedy, Martin Pizzarelli and percussionist Tony Tedesco, along with saxophonist Harry Allen, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, accordionist Dominic Cortese, cellist Jesse Levy and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.
On his 2002 album, The Rare Delight of You, Pizzarelli teamed up with veteran pianist George Shearing. In the tradition of classic quintet-and-vocalist recordings, they lay down great standards (including Be Careful, It s My Heart, If Dreams Come True and Lost April ) as well as a couple originals, all in vibrant arrangements.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the John Pizzarelli Trio, Live at Birdland was released in April 2003. This 2 CD set includes two James Taylor tracks ( Mean Old Man from October Road and Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight ), Gershwin's They Can t Take That Away From Me, Rodgers and Hart s Manhattan, a pair of Rosemary Clooney staples ( Moonlight Becomes You and Will You Still Be Mine ), three originals and a classic rendition of one of John s signature numbers, I Like Jersey Best. That October, Pizzarelli led a 40-member live orchestra at Radio City Music Hall in Sinatra: His Voice, His World, His Way.
In 2004, Pizzarelli introduced a new generation to bossa nova. Produced by Russ Titleman, Bossa Nova features several Brazilian musicians including Paulo Braga, who played drums with Antonio Carlos Jobim for many years, vocalist Daniel Jobim (Jobim's grandson) and Cesar Camargo Mariano, who produced, composed and played on many great Brazilian records, most notably with Elis Regina.
Knowing You, his 2005 release, pays homage to the many talented musicians and songwriters he s met throughout his career. The disc features material from noted pop and Broadway songwriters Jimmy McHugh, Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen, Frank Loesser, Alan Bergman and Johnny Mandel, among others. The album spotlights longtime partners Ray Kennedy on piano and brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, along with the newest member of the group, drummer Tony Tedesco. Special guests include Cesar Camargo Mariano on piano, Bucky Pizzarelli on rhythm guitar, Larry Goldings on organ and piano, Tony Monte on piano, Ken Peplowski on clarinet, Harry Allen on tenor saxophone and singer Jessica Molaskey.
John recently launched Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli, his nationally syndicated radio program, co-hosted with his wife, Broadway star Jessica Molaskey. Bringing warmth, humor and that long-lost live feel back to radio, the show takes place in their deluxe living room and the conversations are relaxed, candid, and off-the-cuff. Recent guests include Regis Philbin, Liza Minnelli, Keely Smith and Tony Danza.
In July 2006, Telarc will release Dear Mr. Sinatra, John's tribute CD to Ol' Blue Eyes, featuring the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. The CD features classic standards like I've Got You Under My Skin and Nice And Easy, as well as rarely-recorded songs like Ring A Ding Ding and The Last Dance. This spring, he will be featured in the new PBS series Legends of Jazz.
In addition to being a bandleader and solo performer, John has been a special guest on recordings for major pop names such as James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Tom Wopat, Rickie Lee Jones and Dave Von Ronk, as well as leading jazz artists like Rosemary Clooney, Ruby Braff, Johnny Frigo, Buddy DeFranco, Harry Allen and, of course, Bucky Pizzarelli. He was recently featured opposite Donna Summer, Jon Secada and Roberta Flack on the GRAMMY Award winning CD, Songs From The Neighborhood: The Music of Mr. Rogers.
John has performed numerous times on the country's most popular national television shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Live With Regis & Kelly, The Tony Danza Show, The CBS Early Show, Fox News Channel and Jerry Lewis's Labor Day Telethon.
Pizzarelli continues to tour throughout the United States, Europe and Japan, performing classic pop, jazz and swing, while setting the standard for stylish modern jazz.