By Stacey Muncie
Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Playful crooner and jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and the John Pizzarelli Quartet take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday as Hatfield Hall’s Performing Arts Series continues at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Before the show, sponsored by Wise Pies Pizza & Subs, the first 200 ticketholders can enjoy a complimentary slice of pizza, beginning at 6:45 p.m., as part of a special “Pizza and Pizzarelli” pre-show event.
Drawing on influences like Nat “King” Cole, George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra and James Taylor, world-renowned jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli has created a signature sound that incorporates touches of jazz, bossa nova, swing, and the Great American Songbook.
Called “hip, with a wink” by Town & Country, Pizzarelli followed in the footsteps of his father, the legendary jazz guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli. He began playing the guitar at age 6, and in his teenage years began sitting in on sessions with his father.
While many musicians credit the influence of greats like Les Paul, Benny Goodman and Zoot Sims, John Pizzarelli was fortunate enough to actually play with those legends while growing up.
After recording “My Blue Heaven” for Chesky Records in 1990, he toured extensively, and opened for such greats as Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis and Rosemary Clooney. In 1993, he was honored to open for Frank Sinatra on his international tour. He then joined in the celebration of Sinatra’s 80th birthday at Carnegie Hall, bringing down the house with his rendition of “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do,” accompanied by his father.
Since then, Pizzarelli has employed his cool jazz flavor to give new life to old standards and create bold originals, being hailed along the way for “reinvigorating the Great American Songbook and re-popularizing jazz,” by the Boston Globe.
Pizzarelli’s catalog of albums also includes “After Hours,” a collection of torch ballads, the classic swing and original compositions of “Our Love is Here to Stay,” and a holiday disc, “Let’s Share Christmas.” He even tackled rock ’n’ roll classics on the album “John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles,” bringing a swing twist to Beatles songs. In 1997, Pizzarelli made his Broadway debut in the musical “Dream,” a revue of Johnny Mercer songs.
He was featured opposite Donna Summer, Jon Secada and Roberta Flack on the Grammy Award-winning CD “Songs From The Neighborhood: The Music of Mr. Rogers” in 2005.
His 2008 recording, the Grammy-nominated “With A Song In My Heart,” celebrates the music of legendary composer Richard Rodgers. The album includes swinging Rodgers & Hart jazz standards like “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “Mountain Greenery” and “Johnny One Note,” in addition to theater songs from “South Pacific” and “The King and I.”
Pizzarelli’s latest album, “Double Exposure,” is a collection of tunes by the likes of James Tayor, the Allman Brothers and Neil Young, set squarely within traditional jazz arrangements.
“I didn’t want to just cover these songs, but rather find a way to present them that was unusual and interesting,” Pizzarelli said of the album. “I think growing up in a household that had two specific record collections became the inspiration — my father’s jazz records, my sisters’ record collection and records brought around by their friends.”
Pizzarelli also appears on several tracks on Paul McCartney’s 2012 album, “Kisses on the Bottom.” Pizzarelli performed with McCartney at an iTunes concert at Capitol Records Studios and also at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
“Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli,” his nationally syndicated radio program, co-hosted with his wife, Broadway star Jessica Molaskey, brings warmth, humor and that long-lost “live” feel back to radio. Set in their “deluxe living room high atop Lexington Avenue,” the show features relaxed, candid conversations sparked with live music. Guests have included Liza Minnelli, Mitch Albom and Regis Philbin, Kurt Elling, Annie Ross and Keely Smith. The show is available globally as a podcast at www.johnpizzarelli.com and via iTunes.
He has also performed on the country’s most popular national television shows including “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “The Conan Show,” to “Live With Regis & Kelly” and “The CBS Early Show.”
Pizzarelli received the 2009 Ella Fitzgerald Award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival, joining a select group of past winners including Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett and Harry Connick Jr.
Tickets for the show at Rose-Hulman may be purchased in person, by calling the Hatfield Hall ticket desk at 812-877-8544, or at hatfieldhall.com. Ticket desk hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and two hours before each event. Complete season information, including artist video clips, is available at hatfieldhall.com. Find exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and more at facebook.com/HatfieldHall.