ON THE RECORD: Gershwin's Sweet Little Devil and John Pizzarelli's "Double Exposure"

By Steven Suskin
10 Jun 2012

Cover art for "Double Exposure"

Double Exposure [Telarc]
My musical highlight of May, along with a revisit to Broadway's 2012 Best Musical Tony nominee Once (the cast album of which I addressed in a March On the Record column), was the just-ended appearance of The John Pizzarelli Quartet at Cafe Carlyle. John Pizzarelli is always wonderful, whether alone or in tandem with that supremely talented singer Jessica Molaskey (who on opening night was at ringside, kibitzing). This time, though, he seemed better than ever. The music was as good as always, but he seems to have gotten funnier; instead of charming us with all those awkward bad jokes, he is now telling awkward good jokes. Adding to the enjoyment was John's special guest, Bucky, AKA Dad. Bucky looked and acted like he was 86, which he is. Except when he was playing his guitar, when the years slipped away. John's sidemen were as good as ever, brother Martin on the bass, Larry Fuller on the piano, and Tony Tedesco on the drums (with a remarkable solo on "Sing, Sing, Sing" during the finale).

Pizzarelli took several opportunities to plug his latest CD, "Double Exposure," and given the excellence of his act I immediately took the hint. The double exposure is pop and jazz; that is, he takes pop songs of his youth — the late '60s, the '70s — and "exposes" them to the jazz that permeated his home (courtesy of Bucky). Thus we get songs by Lennon & McCartney, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell and others, all in Pizzarelli jazz-style. There is also a new song — "Take a Lot of Pictures," inspired by an expression Sinatra used to use when he was annoyed — written by John and Jessica. Jessica also duets and provides special lyrics for Taylor's "Traffic Jam," and they are pretty special. As is Pizzarelli, and as is "Double Exposure."

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and DVD Shelf columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)