John Pizzarelli puts an extra pop in jazz. The internationally heralded guitarist/vocalist and his quartet land in Lionshead on Thursday.
There was no such thing as silence growing up in the Pizzarelli household. Mind you, the sounds emanating from the place were nothing close to noise.
Coming from one of the most talented, harmonious families in jazz history, there was never any pressure for John Pizzarelli to take up music as a young boy. He was never pushed to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Bucky Pizzarelli.
Playing music was pure fun for John and everyone else in the house. It was 100-percent natural. “It was very easy. We had all the guitars and all the equipment,” says John, who will be making his inaugural appearance this Thursday at Jazz @ Vail Square, performing with his brother Martin on bass, Larry Fuller on piano and Tony Tedesco on drums. “
The house was one big instrument room. There was always some kind of music going on – my father playing, rock bands in high school … It’s always been enjoyable to me. Never like a job.”
Over the last 22 years, the enjoyment has led to more than 20 studio albums, 11 collaborative records with his father and four more with his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, with whom John co-hosts the nationally syndicated weekly radio program, “Radio Deluxe.”
When asked if guitar was also the obvious fit for John and bass the natural choice for Martin, John says he actually started out with the tenor banjo. “The Martin question is easier,” John says, laughing. “He chose bass because we needed a bass player. We forced it on him. The guitar was around the house but it wasn’t until I found an Elton John book lying around that I picked it up and played along. That got me rolling.”
While Bucky has a very busy musical schedule of his own, John tries to team up with his father as much as possible and when the family talent converges on the holidays, the doors are virtually blown off at the Pizzarelli household.
“Whenever I can rope him into playing with me, I do,” John says of his father. “He’s so busy, it’s good we’ll play with him when we can. For the holidays we always get together. For Christmas, all hell breaks loose.”
When it comes to performing with his brother, Tedesco and Fuller – his quartet of the last seven years – Pizzarelli cherishes the band’s ability to instantly read one another. “The thing I like about having the group is when you go, you can have a set booked and arrangements and you’re able to do whatever you want to do at a moment’s notice,” he says. “It’s nice to have music you’re always prepared for. It doesn’t have to be the same every night.”
Dovetailing on that vein of fresh takes, although he is known to sing and play hypnotizing renditions of jazz classics and The Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli’s latest musical focus his most recent album release – “Double Exposure” – is pop songs by the likes of Neil Young, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Seals and Crofts and The Allman Brothers, to name a few.
Only Pizzarelli infused his own arrangements into the core of the tunes … jazzed them up, if you will. “It started with records I made with my wife, the idea of having these songs inside of songs,” he explains. “I thought I could apply it with songs I grew up with – ‘I Feel Fine,’ ‘Diamond Girl’… I would always look for a jazz song or something to throw in so it still had jazz at its center. I felt it was really creative. It was one of my records that took the most work and I was glad with the way it turned out.”
As comfortable and energetic as he is with his quartet, some of Pizzarelli’s most prized performance memories to date include sharing the stage and recording with a number of musical icons. “Some of the best moments were playing with James Taylor or Paul McCartney or Natalie Cole,” he says. “What I was really pleased with is that they were as nice personally as they are musically. There’s a reason why they’re tremendous musical stars. They are generous, beautiful people.”
What: Jazz @ Vail Square with John Pizzarelli Quartet
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1
Where: The weatherproof Jazz Tent in Vail Square, Lionshead
Info: Preferred seats are $20 in advance, $25 day of show and general admission FREE on a first-come basis. Visit vailjazz.org for more info.
Vail, Colo. is universally held as North America’s top year-round destination mountain resort and has become a cosmopolitan community with visitors from all over the world. Founded in December 1962, Vail marked its 50th anniversary this winter as the new home of the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships. Also home to world Alpine ski racing champion Lindsey Vonn, the legendary Back Bowls of Vail Mountain, and in 2015 Vail will host its third World Alpine Ski Championships. Matching the incredible winter mountain experience, Vail from May through October is characterized by a rich culinary scene, a world-class events schedule from adventure sports to classical and Jazz, family activities and everything in between. Leading this lineup is the Vail Jazz Festival, Bravo! Vail Music Festival, the Vail International Dance Festival, America’s greatest bicycle race, the USA Pro Challenge, and the legendary Gourmet on Gore culinary festival and Vail Jazz Party capping off the summer season. Vail also offers exceptional lodging from high-end luxury hotels to practical condominiums and vacation rentals. Getting to Vail is easy via Denver International Airport and close by Eagle Airport, America’s fourth busiest regional airport with non-stop service from nine major U.S. cities including the new Houston flight, and connections from around the globe.
Once here, Vail proudly offers the largest free public transportation system in North America. The Vail consumer website is www.vail.com, and the Town of Vail website is www.vailgov.com.
The 19th annual Vail Jazz Festival is produced by the Vail Jazz foundation and sponsored by Town of Vail, Alpine Bank, AT&T, CME, The Jazz Cruise, Vail Daily, William Hill Winery, New Amsterdam Vodka and Gin, KUVO and KVJZ, Alpine Aire, Alpine Party Rentals, The Arrabelle, Yamaha, KZYR, Mighty Fine Productions, Rocky Mountain Reprographics, Lionshead Summer, Hertz, Larkspur Restaurant, Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, Avalon Clothing and Kelly Liken.