By Holli Harms
You sit in the intimate space that is the Cafe Carlyle waited on by a plethora of attentive and caring personable staff. Enjoying your delicious meal and waiting for your evening’s entertainer; a master of the supper club, a supreme singer, musician, and arranger, John Pizzarelli. Cafe Carlyle is a venue that lends itself to a personable evening with an artist of the highest caliber. And you are there.
John Pizzarelli is back once again at the Cafe Carlyle, after a two-year hiatus, due to, well, we all know why.
He is backed by double bass player Michael Karn, a fixture of the Pizzarelli gang, and newcomer Isaiah J. Thompson on piano. Thompson, just 25 years old, is a great pianist, an artist in the same realm as Oscar Peterson. His playing is liquid gold.
In music, there is space between the notes, and what musicians do with that space is just as important as what they do with the note, and here that space is soaring. You close your eyes and float effortlessly to the stars on graceful chords.
Pizzarelli’s singing is fun, sexy, sultry, smooth. He is a musician of the highest caliber. His guitar, an extension of himself, another voice on stage expanding the trio into a quartet. Music is not in his blood it is his blood.
At the top of the show after playing two intros, Pizzarelli says, “I’ll do one more song and then talk extensively.” He does one more song, he talks, but not extensively. He tells us stories of his famous father musician Bucky Pizzarelli who collaborated with Benny Goodman, Zoot Sims, and Milt Hinton to name a few. John sat at his father’s side and learned how to play guitar with gusto and grace. But his most important lesson was how to share it with an audience. Bucky at 89 was continuing to wow an audience. See HERE for yourself.
The theme of the show is Stage and Screen, so you know the songs are going to be many old friends and for some new friends to be had, like “Rhode Island Is Famous for You.” The song with jaunty clever lyrics, “Cotton comes from Louisiana, gophers from Montana, spuds from Idaho.”
Their “Send In The Clowns,” written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, is truly sung by the instruments. It is one of my all-time favorite songs. It is, simply put, perfect, and to hear a guitar “sing” it, enthralling. I quietly sang along.
Then came their tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! with Karn’s bass playing out, “Oh what a beautiful morning!” Again I sang quietly along, can’t be helped, “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…” Thompson and Pizzarelli joined in to fill the room with the chorus, “Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I got a wonderful feeling everything’s going my way.” And for the time we were all there at the Carlyle with Pizzarelli and Karn and Thompson, everything WAS going our way. Pizzarelli accompanied by his guitar, sings, “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No,” and I was practically on my feet, but this is the Carlyle, so I remained seated, but inside…
Pizzarelli is performing at the Carlyle through May 7th. But no worries, he will be back in November with his wife, Broadway singer Jessica Molaskey.
Pizzarelli is ours to keep.
Cafe Carlyle presents John Pizzarelli April 26 – May 7. Book TIckets HERE. Reservations required.
Cafe Carlyle 35 East 76th Street