The Jazz.com Blog
September 10, 2009 · 0 comments
Owing either to the weather (gorgeous); the format (pleasant and amusing); his music (engaging, solid and polished); his dad (still playing metronomic rhythm and velvety solo guitar); or his Foxwoods commercial, John Pizzarelli was the biggest draw of the Festival. Broadcasting his "Radio Deluxe" show from "high atop the Berkshires," Pizzarelli, his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, and preteen daughter Madeline, hosted a two-hour throwback to the days when his Bucky sat by the AM/FM to hear the latest swing.
The format was shticks upon shticks with a little music thrown in. This was at first maddening, even though John Pizzarelli worked the audience with such aplomb and charm that one eventually warmed up to it. But hadn't we come to Tanglewood for music? Perhaps it's always better to carry a big shtick.
But seriously, folks, there was plenty of music. From the moment he went into the first tune, scatting the lines he played, Pizzarelli reaffirmed his gifts as a guitarist. All the numbers, although they were carefully staged, showed the type of professionalism that puts an audience at ease, especially the vocals. Jessica Molaskey, a musical theater performer whose well-placed, personable voice has a touch of huskiness, sang a gentle "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams," and shared a "meditation on co-dependence" with her husband that cleverly bound the lyrics of "I Wanna Be Happy" with "Sometimes I'm Happy."
The band benefited from John Pizzarelli's solid guitar playing, Bucky’s comping, and pianist Larry Fuller's clean, light, fluent, intelligent lines. Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and violinist Aaron Weinstein, both fine musicians who were featured on a tribute to Zoot Sims and Joe Venuti, may have been having an uninspired day. Their work was good, but not exciting.
Given Les Paul's recent passing, there were several stories about the Pizzarelli's neighbor in Mahwah, New Jersey. Like the party where Les Paul threw Bucky Pizzarelli his guitar, shouting, "Come on, Bucky, play one!" Or the time they were playing the Hanover Trail Steakhouse, where Les Paul decided to detune John's guitar. When Bucky and John played a Les Paul sort of arrangement of "It's Been A Long, Long Time," Bucky's solo—buttery, soft, and humble—was one of the most poignant moments of the program, if not the weekend.
Another such moment was the guest appearance of Kurt Elling, who entered with the just-folks family time prop of a Dora the Explorer bag. But when he took the microphone for "Polkadots and Moonbeams," the air in the room changed. It filled with his larger-than-life vocal presence, head-on intonation, intervallic leaps from rich baritone to delicate upper registers, and the saxophone-like cadenzas and melismas that give stately lift and finish to his songs. Hopefully, Elling will do a full concert at Tanglewood next year.
This blog entry posted by Roanna Forman. For links to the rest of Forman’s coverage of the festival, click here.