Pizzarelli Trio: More Than Tribute to Nat `King' Cole

Article excerpt

WHEN the John Pizzarelli Trio performed at Jazz at the Bistro last August, it might have been possible to attribute the overflow crowds in attendance to the fact the City's top jazz club was celebrating its grand opening.

But there was no doubt why the capacity crowd showed up Tuesday evening at the Bistro. Guitarist Pizzarelli, his brother Martin on double bass and Ray Kennedy on piano have developed a strong following in St. Louis - and across the country - with a smoothly swinging sound that pays strong tribute to the distinctive style of the legendary Nat "King" Cole Trio.

Cole's trio wasn't the first to work in a setting without a drummer, but it certainly became the most popular. The format was later adopted by musicians such as Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal, but it's become something of a rarity on the contemporary jazz scene. But the guitar, piano, bass setting appears to be an ideal setting for John Pizzarelli's talents. He has a finely-honed guitar technique that focuses on rhythmic chord changes, but he can also pick his way flawlessly through fast-paced single note solos. Add a singing voice that seems perfectly suited to Cole's easy-going brand of swing, and it's easy to see why John Pizzarelli has chosen to follow Cole's lead. During the opening set, they were at their best performing Cole classics like "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Sweet Lorraine." On the former tune, the three musicians captured the essential groove of Cole's original version - but added their own unique touch as well. During an extended instrumental, John Pizzarelli and Ray Kennedy engaged in a free form dialogue that showcased their musical skill - and sense of humor. …

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