Okay, this is odd… I just realized that three of the four people I was going to discuss this week are named John… I guess if you know me and are named John, you will have a good chance of becoming a succesful musician… Glad I could help!
John Pizzarelli – Rockin’ In Rhythm
Out of the musical artists I actually know, I have known John the longest. We worked at Knight’s Day Camp together!!! I am sure I knew him when I was a camper there, too… but my most vivid memories are trying to impress him for the bus contests each week. I was a bus counselor as well, and Bus 14 would always go out of our way to decorate or jump on the week’s theme. Impressing Judge Pizza was key… and we took home the prize quite a few times!
I started to go see John play in tiny clubs in Jersey, and this was even before he started really singing. He reminds me of Nat King Cole, being a gifted virtuoso with a musical instrument and suddenly realizing he has another, equally amazing instrument… his voice! *&^%&*()_(*&^%$!!!
His breakout, I think, was a fantastic and funny song and an homage to New Jersey called I Like Jersey Best. A great live version can be found on P.S. Mr. Cole (and yes, you can hear it on Spotify!) I still yell it out as a request when I see him live… Sorry, buddy. Hearing him sing Paul Simon’s “The Late Great Johnny Ace” at camp was the first time I ever heard that song, and he played it so beautifully… Man1
John has recorded over 20 albums on his own and probably another 20 on other people’s projects… That ain’t bad! In addition to this one, which is one of my favorites, I also love Dear Mr. Cole, P.S. Mr. Cole (those two are probably my most favorites), New Standards and John Pizzarelli Meets The Beatles (Gotta dig that album cover, too!)
He has become known for his “matching”… I have no idea what it is called, actually… I made that up… but it is where he sings his solo lines simultaneously while he is soloing on guitar. Whatever it is, it is cool as hell… like an exact and precise scat.
John is one of these people who just always seems happy and blissful at what he is doing… Now, I don’t live with him, but whenever I see him, his energy is infectious. His father is the world-famous, guitar master Bucky Pizzarelli… I have seen his magic a number of times!!! His brother Martin is also a great guy and amazing bass player. Clearly good things run in the family! I just enjoy being around them, although I do not understand, nor appreciate John’s die-hard love for the Boston Red Sox. WTF???!!!
John’s wife is the remarkable Broadway star Jessica Molaskey. Jessica stunningly sings one of my favorites songs: “Stars and the Moon” from Songs For A New World, the brilliant song cycle from the genius, funny, but sometimes curmudgeon Jason Robert Brown. You must listen to this album and his scores from The Last Five Years and Parade, as well as his own record Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes. Seriously, the man is a composing treasure!
Sorry, this is sounding a bit like a love fest, but you know what… I guess it is…
Through John I got to meet James Taylor backstage at the Hollywood Bowl… a great story that I can fill in later. He lovingly introduced me by saying excitedly, “Hey, James… this is Marc my camp friend!” He also got Stephanie and I tickets to see him at the Disney Concert Hall, sitting us front and center, next to Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Hello!!! Two of the greatest songwriters of all time!!! It was a little odd when he played one of their songs and introduced them from the stage… I leaned as far away as I could to give them the full and deserved spotlight. Wow, what a night.
John is what I would call a true Renaissance man… Check out his great radio program he does with Jessica called Radio Deluxe.
But most importantly… even though he did not see me the last few times he was in LA at the Catalina Bar and Grill… I know, I know… stuff to do, people to see… I count him as a friend.
Thanks for the music, John… and some amazing, lifetime-memory-making musical experiences!
Jazz on, Garth!