John Pizzarelli Interprets Richard Rodgers on New CD

News   John Pizzarelli Interprets Richard Rodgers on New CD
"With a Song in My Heart: John Pizzarelli Sings the Music of Richard Rodgers," a new recording by the jazz guitarist and vocalist who interprets the American Songbook, is in stores now from Telarc.

The disc, released Aug. 19, explores the catalog of composer Richard Rodgers at different phases of his career. Songs with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart are here.

Rodgers penned nearly a thousand songs and contributed to 40 Broadway musicals, including Oklahoma!, The King and I, Carousel, The Boys From Syracuse, A Connecticut Yankee, The Sound of Music, Pal Joey and more.

"A lot of his musicals are being revived right now," Pizzarelli said in a statement. "South Pacific is at Lincoln Center. Pal Joey is coming soon. There's a lot of Rodgers in the air. So it was just a matter of picking songs that I liked — things that would be interesting and make a nice package."

He explained the disc's style: "I wanted it to be along the lines of the kinds of records Marty Paitch and Mel Tormé used to make. No real rhythm guitar to speak of, not a lot of piano. The horns sort of lead the way over the bass and the drums. That way, the piano and the guitar are more like soloists. The first call that I made was to [arranger] Don Sebesky. I told him I wanted to use horns on six of the tracks. He just ate that up. He was very excited, because those Tormé records are some of his favorites."

The 12-track disc is produced by Pizzarelli and Robert Friedrich (who engineers). Pizzarelli's guitarist dad Bucky is among special guests on the recording. "I know the material is good," said the younger Pizzarelli. "It was just a matter of how I wanted to present the songs. We did all of our homework in a three-week period. We made a decision about the concept, we got the best people we could find and we recorded the album in two days. Everyone was on their game. It couldn't have gone better."

Among the highlights:

  • "With a Song in My Heart," from the 1929 Rodgers & Hart musical, Spring Is Here. "I have a recording of Chet Baker singing this song," said Pizzarelli. "Don [Sebesky] arranged that recording, which is why the song appears on this record. The ensemble section after the piano solo on my record is a harmonization of Chet's first chorus on the version from his record."
  • Pizzarelli and his father create "a poignant and intimate guitar/vocal version" of "It's Easy To Remember," a Rodgers & Hart collaboration from the 1935 film, "Mississippi." "Benny Goodman used to play this when my father and I opened for him when I was a kid," Pizzarelli said. "Benny loved this song. My father has just recently started playing it again in his show, so that's why it's on this record."
  • "Happy Talk" from Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific gets "a decidedly Latin groove" with the help of guest pianist César Camargo Mariano. "I've always thought of this as a bossa nova song, because it mentions the moon and the sky and the lilies on the lake — all of that typical bossa nova imagery. It almost sounds as though Jobim could have written it. I was glad to be able to do it with César, who appeared on my Bossa Nova album in 2004. He and I revisited that guitar and piano arrangement with this song."
  • "The Lady is a Tramp," from the 1937 Rodgers & Hart musical, Babes in Arms. Pizzarelli does "some tasty solo work, as does pianist Larry Fuller."
  • "She Was Too Good To Me," crafted here with the same "melancholy vibe" as "It's Easy To Remember." Originally written for a female part under the title "He Was Too Good To Me" for the 1930 Rodgers & Hart Broadway musical Simple Simon, the number was cut prior to the show's New York opening. Since then, however, it has become a jazz standard. Pizzarelli's rendition is another nod to Chet Baker, whose 1974 album named after the song was an important influence on Pizzarelli in the early years of his career. Kenny Berger plays bass clarinet.
  • The stripped-down and simple closer, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" — also from South Pacific — becomes "a bit of a pop ballad." "It was originally written in 3/4 time," Pizzarelli said, "but we did it in 4/4 time. I sort of treated it as a James Taylor song." "I Have Dreamed," "Mountain Greenery," "Nobody's Heart," "This Can't Be Love," "I Like to Recognize the Tune" and "Johnny One-Note" complete the disc.

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