John Pizzarelli Frank Sinatra Songbook May 1, 2010
John Pizzarelli Does the Sinatra Songbook at
By Glen Creason
Sometimes it seems there are as many Sinatra wannabees as there are Elvis impersonators and all of them must know that there was only one chairman and adulation is fine but beware the possible expectation explosions in Old Blue Eyes tributes. In fact there have been a few Sinatra-ites at the Center including the legend himself (1993) and his own flesh and blood a few times. While Frank was not at his peak in his latter years (and who is) he was the genuine
Pizzarelli navigated this minefield with intelligence, delightful wit, musical aplomb and a fine, middle range baritone that complimented the song writers and became another sweet instrument in the arrangements he chose to represent the repertoire at this terrific show. That is not to leave out the stunningly beautiful seven string guitar accompaniment Pizzarelli flavors each tune with in this Sinatra send-up. That guitar never trampled on the full sound of a sixteen piece orchestra that included the quartet that normally plays with the band leader in smaller venues. An easy-going tone was struck from the first notes of “Come Fly With Me” and continued for a swinging first half of great songs and perfect arrangements that were not of the warhorse variety. In between extremely smart patter and instructive introductions Pizzarelli completely charmed the audience while polishing gems like “Just the Way You Look Tonight,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “the Lady is a Tramp,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “I Can’t Get Started.” Pizzarelli makes you understand the greatness of Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, and others in the Great American Songbook by playing the songs as written and not trying to American Idol anything. His choice and performance of “I Don’t Know Why I Love You But I Do” was unusual and unusually beautiful in emotion and execution.
The second half was more of the great stuff including some pretty solid Sinatra-only songs that Pizzarelli was able to make good on with his low key vocals and fine guitar work. The saloon songs like “One More for the Road,” “Ring a Ding Ding” and Quincy Jones swinging arrangement of “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” were purely wonderful but “Witchcraft,” Nice and Easy Does It” “I’ve Got the World on a String” swung sweetly. Again, the lesser known piece stood out, this time “It’s Sunday” that completely mesmerized the appreciative audience. Pizzarelli knows how to entertain and there were no slow moments, even in ballads. Maybe the easy wit can be attributed to his role as host on a radio jazz show but when the big band finished with “Last Dance” and an encore of “I Get a Kick Out of You” everyone got up and told the performer they would love to see him back in Cerritos real soon.