John Pizzarelli is a seasoned guitarist, pop singer, and debonair entertainer whose greatest talent is communicating the jazz idiom to music listeners who otherwise are indifferent to the form. On stage in August at Birdland in New York to celebrate the release of Midnight McCartney, his relentless enthusiasm as a bandleader smoothed the way for a sweetly nostalgic appreciation for lesser-known tunes by Paul McCartney. Along the way, his relaxed stage banter left the audience laughing and feeling great.
It’s not often that a musician is personally invited to record songs from Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles catalog, but if Sir Paul writes you, as he did Pizzarelli, it’s not an opportunity to pass up. The connection was made after Pizzarelli played on McCartney’s Grammy®-winning Kisses On The Bottom album, and the former Beatle suggested that the focus be on rare, gentler songs that have a late-night vibe.
The result couldn’t be better. “Silly Love Songs,” “No More Lonely Nights,” and the endearing “My Valentine” are beautifully built on a bed of silky bossa nova rhythms. Tasteful strings underlie a glorious rendition of “My Love,” and lush woodwinds abound, courtesy of the orchestration by Don Sebesky.
Pizzarelli’s durability—he’s recorded two dozen solo albums and accompanied artists like Rosemary Clooney and James Taylor on forty others—is rooted in his passion for swing, Nat King Cole, Antônio Carlos Jobim, and Frank Sinatra, and for the Great American Songbook.
His success is grounded by a dedication to family. Father Bucky Pizzarelli, wife/singer (and co-producer) Jessica Molasky, brother/bassist Martin Pizzarelli, and daughter Madeline all contribute to the triumph of Midnight McCartney. Pianist and arranger Larry Goldings and guest spots by singer Michael McDonald and swing saxophonist Harry Allen can only ensure that this album will cross over in appeal—it’s graceful, urbane, and superior jazz/pop that lingers with a burnished glow.
This article is from the September 2015 edition of ICON Magazine, the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. More information.