Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli Talk 'Radio Deluxe' And Tanglewood 2009
John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey are the epitome of the sophisticated urbane couple; a modern day, musical, William Powell and Myna Loy.
Pizzarelli has had a multi-faceted career as a jazz guitarist, vocalist and bandleader. He has recorded nearly an album a year for the past twenty years. He frequently appears with his trio or quartet and often with his father, legendary jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. He recently released ‘With a Song in My Heart', a tribute to Richard Rodgers.
Molaskey began her Broadway career nearly 30 years ago in a revival of Oklahoma! and most recently appeared in the 2008 Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George. In between she appeared in another 10 or so Broadway productions along with numerous U.S. tours. In September 2008, Molaskey released her 5th solo album, ‘A Kiss to Build a Dream On'.
For the past three years the couple has hosted a weekly radio show from their "Deluxe living room high atop Lexington Avenue" in New York City. The show has a focus on "The Great American Songbook". Guests from across the musical spectrum are invited into their "Deluxe Living Room" for a relaxed, freewheeling chat. Recent guests include David Hyde Pierce, Curtis Stigers, Bebe Neuwirth and Liza Minnelli.
The un-scripted feel of their show is no accident. A conversation with the couple can take twists and turns as every story reminds the other of another story they want to share. They each possess an encyclopedic knowledge of music. John can call up arcane trivia about nearly any 20th century performer or composer. Jessica is a walking Broadway database. The couple has been married for 11 years and frequently performs together. On their show and in life, they frequently finish each other's thoughts and sentences.
BroadwayWorld.com was recently invited to sit in on a taping of "Radio Deluxe".
Lounge singer Richard Cheese and his accompanist Bobby Ricotta were the guests. (John and Jessica's daughter Madeline also sat in and declared it one of her favorite shows, yet.)
After the show John and Jessica sat down to talk about their careers, radio program and their plans to record an episode of Radio Deluxe during the 2009 Tanglewood Jazz Festival, which takes place in Lenox, MA over Labor Day weekend.
Randy Rice: I know that the two of you were in a Broadway production together.
Is that where you met?
John Pizzarelli: It is. We met during the production of Dream.
Jessica Molaskey: It was a tribute to Johnny Mercer, and a rather chaotic production. John and his trio were in it and seemed to know what they were doing. I thought "I should hitch myself to them".
John: In the show, Jessica was singing this beautiful arrangement of "Skylark". I told the director that she should be singing with us. She did.
Jessica: And the rest, as they say, is history.
Randy: Jessica, you are, pretty much, a Broadway gypsy, right?
Jessica: I am not sure I would call myself a "gypsy". I am a performer who has been lucky enough to perform in a lot of Broadway shows. I was in Cats. Perhaps, if being in Cats makes you a "gypsy", I am one. I have been working as a solo artist for the past few years, often with John, as well as getting back to Broadway when possible; most recently in last year's production of Sunday in the Park with George.
When I first came to Broadway, there was a way things worked. You worked in the chorus, worked your way up and eventually you got a lead. That changed somewhere along the line. Performers who had never stepped on a Broadway stage where being given the leads roles. I distinctly remember telling a colleague that I was going to have to go somewhere else, become famous, and then return.
Randy: Was it hard to make the transition from acting in a book musical to performing without a character?
Jessica: Oh my God! It was absolutely terrifying at first. Then I became comfortable performing each song as a story. I worked to find the character that is singing, and that made it easier. Working with John also makes it easier, because I know he has my back.
Randy: Jessica, after singing as a character for the first couple of decades, you have been singing in your own "voice" for the past 10 years. Who are your musical influences?
Jessica: My mom was in radio while I was growing up and we had all of these records around the house. I remember listening to Blossom Dearie and Peggy Lee records over and over again.
Randy: Both of you are prolific recording artists. Jessica, you have released
5 solo jazz standards albums in the past 7 years. John, you seem to release a disc a year. How do you do it?
John: We are very lucky. Most of my "singing" is done on the Telarc label and they are great to work with. I also have the freedom to appear as a guest on other artists' records, including Jessica's. We also write music, together and separately.