INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED JAZZ SINGER AND GUITARIST
RELEASES NEW CD ON TELARC JAZZ
“WITH A SONG IN MY HEART”
THE MUSIC OF RICHARD RODGERS
SPECIAL GUESTS BUCKY PIZZARELLI AND CESAR CAMARGO MARIANO, ARRANGEMENTS BY DON SEBESKY
CD IN STORES AUGUST 19, 2008
JOHN PIZZARELLI, the internationally acclaimed guitarist-vocalist – was still in his late teens when composer Richard Rodgers died in December 1979, but the veteran songwriter’s creative prowess was not lost on the budding young interpreter of the Great American Songbook. With a Song in My Heart: John Pizzarelli Sings the Music of Richard Rodgers (CD-83676), the latest chapter in a career that spans more than 25 years, is a tip of the Pizzarelli hat to Rodgers’ musical legacy.
The CD was produced by Mr. Pizzarelli and Robert Friedrich and features Larry Fuller on piano; Martin Pizzarelli on bass; Tony Tedesco on drums; John Mosca on trombone and horn; Andy Fusco and Kenny Berger on saxophone and clarinet, and Tony Kadleck on trumpet and flugelhorn. The disc features special brass arrangements by Don Sebesky, as well as guest appearances from Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar and Cesar Camargo Mariano on piano. Pizzarelli will celebrate the release of the CD with shows at the Dakota in Minneapolis (August 21), Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles (August 27 – 31), the Café Carlyle in New York (September 9 – November 1), the Ritz Carlton in St. Louis (October 11) and many others.
Richard Rodgers was one of the most prolific and influential figures in 20th century American music. The composer of nearly a thousand songs and forty Broadway musicals, he is best known for his creative partnerships with lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. In a career that spanned a half century, he won Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards, as well as a Pulitzer Prize. Thirty years after his death, his music continues to appeal to a broad audience – not just in the U.S. but around the world.
“A lot of his musicals are being revived right now,” says Pizzarelli. “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.”
And as always, Pizzarelli was committed to making it swing. “I wanted it to be along the lines of the kinds of records Marty Paitch and Mel Tormé used to make,” he explains. “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 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 set opens with the lighthearted and easygoing title track, a song from the 1929 Rodgers & Hart musical, Spring Is Here. Pizzarelli’s version is full of brassy punch, thanks to Sebesky’s tight horn arrangement. “I have a recording of Chet Baker singing this song,” says Pizzarelli. “Don 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.”
Further in, the band takes a break, allowing Pizzarelli and his father – veteran guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli – to craft 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. 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 the well-known Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, South Pacific (originally staged on Broadway in 1949), fits into 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.”
On the more familiar side is “The Lady is a Tramp,” from the 1937 Rodgers & Hart musical, Babes in Arms. Pizzarelli takes enough room here for 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,” is a song with an unusual history. Originally written for a female part as “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’s bass clarinet on this track adds an emotional weight that’s subtle but powerful.
The stripped-down and simple closer, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” – also from South Pacific – takes a bit of a pop ballad turn, thanks in part to Pizzarelli’s re-working of the time signature from the original charts. “It was originally written in 3/4 time,” he says, “but we did it in 4/4 time. I sort of treated it as a James Taylor song.”
With a Song in My Heart combines the timelessness of Richard Rodgers’s music with John Pizzarelli’s natural intuition about the versatility of the Great American Songbook. “I know the material is good,” says 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.”
JOHN PIZZARELLI has been impressing audiences for over 25 years by singing classic standards and late-night ballads, and by playing sublime and inventive guitar. His cool jazz flavor has made him one of the prime interpreters of the great American songbook. On television he is recognized from national appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and in the famous commercials for Foxwoods Casino. He has appeared in films like The Out-Of-Towners with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn and has been seen on performance stages from Radio City Music Hall to the Hollywood Bowl to festivals around the globe. He has been heard on numerous recordings and on his nationally syndicated radio program, Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli, for which he’s interviewed a wide range of guests such as Liza Minnelli, Mitch Albom, Regis Philbin, Kurt Elling, Keely Smith and Annie Ross. Please visit www.johnpizzarelli.com for tour schedule, discography, radio guests and more.
TELARC INTERNATIONAL has been honored with 55 Grammy® Awards for performance, production, and engineering since 1980. Other important awards have included the French Grand Prix du Disque and Diapason d’Or; Japan’s Record of the Year; Germany’s Audiophile CD of the Year; and Gramophone Magazine’s 2004 Label of the Year. Although it began as a classical-only label, Telarc now boasts a catalog of more than 1000 recordings, ranging from classical and classical-crossover to jazz, contemporary jazz, Americana, pop and blues. Telarc releases approximately fifty-five recordings each year, working with a notable roster of artists.