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Tireless Ambassador Of Swing Guitar, John Pizzarelli



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In this exclusive video podcast, Jazz Guitar Today’s Bob Bakert has the pleasure to interview guitarist John Pizzarelli.

Joe Pass, Charlie Byrd, John Pizzarelli, Herb Ellis, and Bucky Pizzarelli – 1985

Bob Bakert, Editor Jazz Guitar Today: When you shine the light on John Pizzarelli the reflections of his multi-faceted career are myriad and deep.  This man has opened for Sinatra, co-produced James Taylor, starred on Broadway, played on recordings with Paul McCartney, hosted TV, radio, and podcasts, and on and on and on. He is a virtuoso guitarist, an expressive/authentic vocalist with tremendous intervallic control, and has that elusive Sinatra quality of making every listener feel like he’s making music just for you. 

More than that he is an amazing tireless ambassador of swing guitar and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre.  But, even more, he can play, entertain and delight his audiences with a flair that is so relaxed and in command on any stage one might think “oh, that must be easy”.  It’s definitely not, John Pizzarelli is just that good!

I haven’t mentioned John’s uber-famous father the highly respected and admired Bucky Pizzarelli and all the luminary musicians that visited and played with Bucky in the family home. (Giving John “lessons” by just soaking it all in) but wow, what experiences John had! I’m sure Bucky and Ruth are looking down with great pride… Please enjoy John Pizzarelli

JGT:  Of all the myriad of high-profile gigs and performances what would you think are the three that hold a special place for you and why? 

JP: Making the records with James Taylor (American Standard)and McCartney (Kisses On The Bottom) was extremely enjoyable. They really tested my mettle as a guitar player.

I did a duo gig at the Cafe Carlyle with Michael McDonald that was amazing. In all three cases, it was awesome to be that close to genius. All three artists possess a unique vision of music.

Playing with Rosemary Clooney was otherworldly. And opening for Sinatra in 1993 was terrifying.

John’s latest release, Stage & Screen

JGT:  What advice would you give to a young player trying to make it in music and performance?

JP: I believe you have to find a place to work out your thing. A club, tavern, or restaurant… wherever. It doesn’t even matter who is or isn’t listening (but there is always someone listening). But I think that is where you learn about yourself the most. Like-what makes you nervous, how well you know the tunes, what your voice needs to stay in tune etc.

JGT:  Do you have a dream project (you have been given an unlimited budget)?

JP: Yes. I wrote songs as a teenager and into my late 20s that were based on what I was listening to. For example-Steely Dan, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Don Henley, etc. If I had the dream budget, I’d fix those tunes up, get the dream band together for the tracks, and have Donald Fagen sing the Steely Dan sounding tune, Henley on his, etc.

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