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Bossa Nova by John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli’s trio has been in existence for all of eleven years now, and its popularity continues to grow, especially with the annual releases of a series of Telarc CD’s. Even so, Pizzarelli is now releasing an album that has been 23 years in the making, ever since Pizzarelli the younger had an epiphany while riding home from a gig with Pizzarelli the elder, Bucky. Although Bucky Pizzarelli had performed for half a century with some of the most important names in jazz and popular music, including Zoot Sims and Benny Goodman, not to mention being in the New York Tonight Show band thus immersing sons John and Martin in music as a way of life that car radio exposure to João Gilberto’s recording of "Besame Mucho" intrigued John Pizzarelli in the inexhaustible subtleties of Brazilian music. He went on to accompany Rosemary Clooney on her Brazilian album, appropriately enough entitled Brazil, but he hadn’t attempted his own project of Brazilian music.... until now.

Surrounded by the trappings generated by success, such as back-up quartets and arrangements by Don Sebesky, Pizzarelli not only deferentially performs his own versions of now-classic songs like "Desafinado," but also he molds American standards like "Fascinatin’ Rhythm" or a Broadway show-stopper like Sondheim’s "I Remember" to the parameters of samba. Going even further than that, Pizzarelli combines his fondness of James Taylor’s songs with his fondness of Brazilian rhythms by slowing down "Your Smiling Face" and attaching the sway of bossa nova and the breeziness of a flute quartet to it.

On some of the songs, the Hi-Lo’s-like harmonization of the back-up singers deepens their richness, while on others Pizzarelli’s friend Harry Allen adopts Stan Getz-like warmness in his solos that connect the singing segments. After a closer look at the liner notes, it becomes apparent that one of the back-up singers is none other than the grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Pizzarelli features Daniel Jobim on the Portuguese chorus of "The Girl From Ipanema," recalling Pizzarelli’s visits to Brazil when the audiences sang along in their native tongue.

Pizzarelli performs "Aquelas Coisas Todas" entirely on guitar, celebrating the Brazilians’ talent for transforming the instrument’s acoustic sound in a way that’s instantly recognizable as originating from that country. Just as important, Pizzarelli sets the stage on "Aquelas Coisas Todas" for famed Brazilian pianist César Camargo Mariano to remind listeners of his involvement in some of the classic Brazilian recordings, particularly those with Elis Regina. Even though Pizzarelli’s trio normally performs without drums, on Bossa Nova he has included frequent Jobim drummer Paulinho Braga throughout the project, while adding Jim Saporito for an even higher degree of percussiveness, so unique are the range of percussive instruments associated with Brazilian music.

As the John Pizzarelli Trio’s profile continues its ascent, becoming in the process one of the generation’s best-known jazz groups even as it bases its style on that of recording artists from previous generations, the public no doubt will be seeing and hearing more from its members in the near future during an intensive interviewing schedule (including an appearance on The Tonight Show) and the resulting Bossa Nova U.S. tour. The culmination of decades of preparation, Bossa Nova no doubt will generate heightened exposure for the trio and possibly once again for the musical form itself.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John Pizzarelli
  • CD Title: Bossa Nova
  • Genre: Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Telarc
  • Tracks: One Note Samba; Fascinatin’ Rhythm; The Girl From Ipanema; Your Smilin’ Face; Estate; Desafinado; Aquelas Coisas Todas; I Remember Sky; Francesca; Love Dance; So Danco Samba; Waters Of March; Soares Samba.
  • Musicians: John Pizzarelli (vocals, guitar); Ray Kennedy (piano); Martin Pizzarelli (bass); Jim Saporito (percussion); Paulinho Braga (drums); Cesar Camargo Mariano (piano on two tracks); Chiara Civello (background vocals); Daniel Jobim (background vocals and Portuguese vocal on Girl From Ipanema).
  • Rating: Three Stars
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