Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

This content is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship support of The University of Minnesota.

John Pizzarelli and other guitar heroes

If you weren’t at John Pizzarelli’s late set at the Dakota on Monday night, here’s what you missed: in his words, “fun with music.”

Pizzarelli’s playground is the Great American Songbook, old songs by the likes of Richard Rodgers, Nat Cole, Irving Berlin, Frank Sinatra and Harold Arlen that don’t sound at all dated or fusty when he and his trio perform them. Beginning with an upbeat “Three Little Words,” they gave us more than 90 fast-paced, jam-packed minutes of joyous entertainment without a hint of irony.

Singing, playing guitar, scatting along with his own improvisations (his voice becomes a horn, a fifth instrument in the band), Pizzarelli engaged the audience immediately, leading us on a merry chase through “I’m Putting All My Eggs in On Basket,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Lady Be Good,” “All of Me” and more.

His trio — Larry Fuller on piano, brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Tony Tedesco on drums — swung hard and loose while staying glued to John’s melodic and stylistic twists and turns. There were plenty of those in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “I Like to Hear the Tune,” where they tossed in quotes from at least 13 other songs (pianist Rick Carlson was in the house, and Pizzarelli assigned him the task of keeping track), and in his ever-changing version of Joseph Cosgriff’s “I Love Jersey Best.”

For “Jersey,” Pizzarelli morphed into Paul Simon, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Billie Holiday, Bobby Darrin, Johnny Cash and Lou Reed, among others. I couldn’t write them down fast enough.

Monday night was their final night at the Dakota. The buzz was they’ll be back next year in a larger venue, but they’ll still make it feel like a concert in your living room.

Meanwhile, if you’re Jonesing for jazz guitar, head down to the Artists’ Quarter for Jazz Guitar Hero Weekend: two nights, six guitarists. Friday: Dean Magraw, Billy Franze and Sam Miltich. Saturday: Dean Granros, Chris Olson and Cory Wong. Artists’ Quarter, Friday-Saturday, Jan. 30-31, 9 p.m. ($10).

No comments yet

Leave a Reply