John Pisano began his musical career on the East Coast playing the piano. At age 14 he took up the guitar. Later, in the 1950’s, he entered the service where he played guitar with the Air Force Band. Upon leaving the Air Force, he followed Howard Roberts and Jim Hall into the guitar chair in the Chico Hamilton quintet and his first significant recordings were made with Hamilton. The recordings, Chico Hamilton Quintet (1957) and South Pacific (1958) were especially noteworthy examples of Pisano’s already advanced comping, rhythm and single string solo techniques.
Throughout the later 1950’s, Pisano recorded with members of the Hamilton band, mainly Paul Horn and Fred Katz. Pisano’s work with Fred Katz was a natural extension of the Hamilton organization in style and format. The Katz recordings always included some intricate solos, supporting comping and rhythm by Pisano. Especially notable were Fred Katz and His Jammers and 4,5,6 Trio.
It was also in 1958 that John Pisano and Billy Bean recorded two albums for Decca, Makin' It and Take Your Pick. Guitar duos were not new in 1958, but the combination of Pisano and Bean, both powerful bebop players, was a new extension of this format. The intricate interplay of Bean and Pisano set a new standard for jazz guitar duets and these recordings became cult items. Both recordings presented exceptional examples of John Pisano’s single string solos, rhythm and comping. One of the best examples, in the simplest terms possible, may have been The Song Is You from Makin' It. This tune was presented in the format of two guitars and bass and was played at an exceptionally brisk tempo. The instrumentation left little room for error and also made it easy to hear both guitarists at all times. This one track makes it clear that John Pisano was every bit Billy Bean’s equal as a single string soloist and supporting player.