By Constance Rogers

The John Pizzarelli Trio at Café Carlyle gracefully honors Nat King Cole’s centennial. The show coincides with their album release, For Centennial Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole. Pizzarelli’s musicianship is unquestionable, and in this show, so is his respect and admiration for Nat King Cole and his songbook. Piano player, Konrad Paszkudzki, and bass player, Mike Karn, are as masterful and lyrical as Pizzarelli.

Pizzarelli’s choice of Cole’s tunes is broad, covering the many sides of Nat King Cole with the reverence one great musician has for another. The tunes range from novelty songs popular in the 1940’s through tender ballads of the 1960’s. Each genre is delivered in the tone it was meant to be sung in. For instance the swing ditty, Could Ja, with lyrics that today could be considered belittling of women, “Could ja for an ice cream sundae? Could ja for a tootsie roll?”, but I assure you not one of us in that room was offended, because Pizzarelli sang it with the appropriate humor and even acknowledged the song’s issues. A story accompanies almost every song, from the pop classic Route 66, to the heartfelt ballad Mona Lisa, and each story is told with a palpable admiration for the times, the composers and the musicianship of Nat King Cole.

The artists John Pizzarelli and Nat King Cole share many traits that make this evening poignant. Both masterful instrumentalists with approachable voices that ring tender and clear. Cole and Pizzarelli both seem to wink at us or smile at us at just the right moment in a song. Many of the tunes Pizzarelli sings have been recorded by others in darker tones, with hidden meanings and innuendo, but Pizzarelli, like Cole, sings them almost like children’s songs, none of the angst or lust is immediately apparent.

Pizzarelli is generous with us. It feels like we are in his living room having a drink and conversation. He talks about his father, the well known and admired guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli, with humor and love, and more than once imitates him.

Take advantage of this opportunity to hear John Pizzarelli play and sing the Nat King Cole songbook at one of the most iconic and gorgeous music rooms New York City still has.

John Pizzarelli Trio at Café Carlyle: John Pizzarelli guitar and vocals; Konrad Paszkudzki piano; Mike Karn bass.

Café Carlyle May 1-May 11, Tuesday- Saturday at 8:45. Weekday prices $75-$145 per person, Weekend prices $90-$180 per person. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle Hotel 35 E. 76th St. Reservations can be made at Ticketweb