By Michael Hillyer
John Pizzarelli is back at the Café Carlyle through May 6, offering New York cabaret fans a lively salute to the music of Johnny Mercer. A musician well-known to audiences for his appearances on albums released by Paul McCartney, Rosemary Cloony, James Taylor and Natalie Cole, among many others, Mr. Pizzarelli has been performing live as a guitarist and singer for over twenty years, often with his wife, Jessica Molaskey, who appeared with him at the Café Carlyle back in November. In this show, Mr. Pizzarelli is on his own; well, not really, since he brought the excellent Mike Karn (Bass) and Konrad Paszkudzki (Piano) along with him, and the three of them commandeer the room right from the get-go with a very high level of musical polish.
Interspersed with Mr. Pizzarelli’s jovial observations and banter with members of the audience (he is very attuned to what is going on in the room and quite clever and funny when ad-libbing on the fly) is a very enjoyable and sophisticated American Songbook set that lasts for about 90 minutes. Beginning with lesser-known tunes like “Dream” and “Jamboree Jones,” the set list also includes well-known gems like “Jeepers Creepers” and “Skylark,” “Goody Goody” and “Moon River.” The program covers a lot of territory, but Mr. Pizzarelli’s arrangements never slow down for long, even when crooning a sad one like “Days Of Wine And Roses,” because he always keeps the tempo up and addresses the lyrics with a light, move-the-song-along approach that has always been his cheerful signature trademark. What John Pizzarelli might lack in vocal depth he more than makes up for with an assured, breezy singing style and outright guitar wizardry; he is a superb musician, as are the two men playing behind him.
It is always a pleasure to attend events at the Carlyle, but this accomplished trio of talents is perfectly calibrated for this swank and intimate venue, as is this show’s concentration on the Mercer chapter in the American Songbook. I strongly urge you to snap up this chance to enjoy John Pizzarelli’s delightful show at the Café Carlyle while it lasts.
Performances are Tuesday – Saturday at 8:45pm through May 6th. Reservations can be made by phone at 212.744.1600 or online via Ticketweb. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, 35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue. Dress code is chic attire; for gentlemen, jackets are required.