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Review: John Pizzarelli Trio STAGE AND SCREEN At The Café Carlyle by Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz

The jazz great recently extended his run til May 7th.

Review: John Pizzarelli Trio STAGE AND SCREEN At The Café Carlyle by Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz The John Pizzarelli Trio

Stage and Screen

Café Carlyle

April 26, 2022

By Andrew Poretz

The John Pizzarelli Trio opened their 10-night set at Café Carlyle tonight with a curated set of songs first introduced on Broadway and in movies before a sizable crowd. The current lineup with Mr. Pizzarelli consists of Isiah J. Thompson on piano and Mike Karn on bass. Mr. Thompson, only 24, who received a master's degree from Juilliard in 2020, is also a bandleader and composer and is one of the best pianists and accompanists in jazz today. Mr. Karn was formerly an accomplished sax player before switching to bass and has played with John for some seven years.

The Café Carlyle is one of the most beautiful, intimate venues for live music in the world, with old-school service and terrific food. (If it is available, insist on the exquisite peach pie with Chantilly cream for dessert.) It always feels like one is in a grand New York movie scene when at the Carlyle.

John Pizzarelli, Jr. has been a popular figure on the New York jazz scene for four decades. The son of legendary seven-string virtuoso Bucky Pizzarelli, who passed from Covid in 2020 at 94, John is one of the finest jazz guitarists in the world, and also a master of the seven-string, which allows for lower bass notes. He is also an excellent singer with a voice that, if not quite mellifluous in tone, is most appealing. He has played and recorded with some of the top names in music, including Bucky Pizzarelli, George Shearing, and Rosemary Clooney, and his wife, singer, and actress Jessica Molaskey, who was present but did not perform tonight. The pair also have a popular online show, "Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey." This show can be found at

Mr. Pizzarelli is also one funny guy, with lightning-fast sardonic quips and comedic material about his life and his music. His comedic bits and references serve as something of a sherbet between courses and may allow some recovery time after particularly fast and intricate, grueling fretwork.

A reviewer's confession: John and I shared a song called "Lonely for You" in the movie Two Family House (2000), where his voice played over the movie credits and throughout, while I dubbed the singing voice for actor Michael Rispoli.

The star walked out to the stage, his "John Pizzarelli" signature archtop guitar in hand, dressed nattily in a tuxedo. When no one from the venue introduced the trio, he leaned into the mic and did it himself in a faux-emcee voice, to laughter. The lineup is in the "Nat King Cole Trio" style of piano, guitar, and bass, with no drummer. They kicked off with "Too Close for Comfort" from Mr. Wonderful. Mr. Pizzarelli, who can sing scat with the best of them, also does a type of scat I call "doubling," where he will double every guitar note with scat singing, no matter how fast or intricate the run. He first doubled here.

Although Pizzarelli famously "likes Jersey best," with summer around the corner he sang, "I Like New York in June" (Burton Lane) from Babes on Broadway, with a killer bass solo by Mr. Karn. John sounded slightly raspy at first, although this smoothed out after a few songs. He described the song as a list song, and followed it with a newer song, "I Love Betsy" (Jason Robert Brown) from Honeymoon in Vegas, filled with marvelous New York references to MOMA, Shake Shack, Prospect Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here is some musical and baseball trivia you probably don't know, as recounted by Mr. Pizzarelli: The two most-remembered songs from No, No, Nannette, "Tea for Two" and "I Want to Be Happy," were not in the original production, but added later. And, for you Yankee fans, it was not No, No, Nannette that cost the Red Sox Babe Ruth, but an earlier show, My Lady Friends. John introduced "Tea for Two" with a verse, solo comping, before the other players joined in. Mr. Thompson had a terrific solo, making much use of the top octave of the piano. Interestingly, both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Karn scat or mouth melody while playing.

"I Want to Be Happy" featured some dazzling speed-demon playing by both Mr. Pizzarelli and Mr. Karn, with a plethora of runs of 16th and possibly 32nd notes. It would be hard not to be happy after that!

Mr. Pizzarelli, switching to a seven-string classical guitar, played a pair of instrumentals with arrangements borrowed from his late father, while Messrs. Thompson and Karn "took five." His delicate playing on Richard Rodgers' "This Nearly Was Mine" (South Pacific) was nearly Segovia-like, making judicious use of another Pizzarelli trademark, harmonics. He segued into "Send in the Clowns" (A Little Night Music). A woman at a nearby table somewhat marred his glorious playing by humming along with it until someone shushed her.

With Mr. Pizzarelli back on the archtop, an instrumental medley of songs from Oklahoma was performed nearly as an overture, with each song having its own signature style.

For "As Time Goes By" (Casablanca), John sang the rarely heard verse, with solo comping, before the trio went into a "supper club" rhythm for the chorus.

The star stated that he did not like to get political, but introduced a song about the "real trouble in the world today": the whimsical "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" (Kander and Ebb, from 70, Girls, 70). It was a swell ending to Mr. Pizzarelli's first night at Café Carlyle.

For an encore, back on the classical guitar, he performed a song that really did touch on the trouble in the world today, a message song about hate, "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" (South Pacific), a song James Taylor sang American Standard, an album that John co-produced. It's made frequent appearances on the Pizzarelli playlist.

This was a very solid set by the John Pizzarelli Trio with excellent playing, singing, and very funny stories. The Trio will play at Café Carlyle nightly through May 7, 2022. Break open your piggy bank and make a reservation!

The John Pizzarelli Trio

John Pizzarelli, Jr.: Guitar and vocals

Isiah J. Thompson: Piano

Mike Karn: Bass

For more great shows at Café Carlyle, click HERE

See John Pizzarelli's upcoming performances HERE

Review: John Pizzarelli Trio STAGE AND SCREEN At The Café Carlyle by Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz Andrew Poretz, "The Boulevardier of Broadway," is an entertainer (singer, guitarist, ukulele player and storyteller), producer, and a reviewer of jazz and cabaret shows, primarily for Theater Pizzazz. An early podcaster, his "Coaches' Corner on BlogTalkRadio" segments are still available on iTunes. Andrew has performed in prominent venues throughout New York and the Bay Area. Andrew is also a board member of The American Popular Song Society. His blog, "The Boulevardier," can be found at

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