The premise is simple enough: Jazz guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli salutes some of the composers he has become enamored with over the years, with the cozy sound of his trio occasionally augmented by organ, sax and the softly resonating chords played by his dad, Bucky Pizzarelli, on acoustic rhythm guitar. What's not to like?
Not much. Good genes, good connections, good taste, good fortune all conspire to make "Knowing You" one of Pizzarelli's most engaging recordings. A lot of the credit for that goes to the tunesmiths represented. Dave Frishberg's contributions, for example, are particularly welcome. Pizzarelli joins his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, on "Quality Time," which yields four-plus minutes of classic Frishberg wit: "We'll find some upscale types to share some space with / A wealthy couple we could interface with / A smart attorney we could start a case with / We're talking quality time." But because one Frishberg tune invites another, Pizzarelli later teams with clarinetist Ken Peplowski on an aptly dreamy rendering of "Eastwood Lane."
Elsewhere, pop ballads and swing tunes, familiar and not so familiar, inspire some enjoyable performances, including songs composed by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz ("New Sun in the Sky"), Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen ("Ain't That a Kick in the Head?"), Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern ("Pick Yourself Up") and even Brian Wilson and Tony Asher ("God Only Knows"). Pizzarelli's scatting grows tiresome at times, but his guitar work is typically stellar and he gets a big assist from Peplowski, saxophonist Harry Allen and organist Larry Goldings, who infuse the music with old-fashioned lyricism and deep blue tints.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Thursday at Strathmore.