John Pizzarelli, Randy Weston
January 1, 1970If this week's newsletter seems skimpy, it's because yesterday's Jazz Notes column was unusually truncated. The 800-some words I turned in about John Pizzarelli opening the first annual Boston Pops Jazz Fest were trimmed to just over 500, apparently so the Globe could run two large photos of Pizzarelli. Among the stuff that went missing was a bit more on Pizzarelli's fellow headliner, Jane Monheit, and more of what Keith Lockhart had to tell me. Oh well.
Randy Weston was the Calendar pick this week. I didn't manage to make it out to see him either night, but did see Christian Scott's band on Wednesday, and it was smoking.
Next week's newsletter should be fleshed out at least a little, as tomorrow's Globe will include the paper's annual summer preview roundup, which will include some stuff from yours truly about what's coming up in jazz over the next three months.
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Pizzarelli follows his father's footsteps at Pops jazz festival
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | May 19, 2006
John Pizzarelli and his quartet will kick off the first Boston Pops Jazz Fest Tuesday, launching five straight nights of jazz at Symphony Hall. But it won't be the first time jazz musicians have worked with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Far from it. As a matter of fact, Pizzarelli's dad, jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, did so more than a quarter century ago.
"The first time I was in Symphony Hall was to see my dad play with the Pops with [jazz violinist] Stephane Grappelli," says Pizzarelli, 46, by phone from Seattle, where he and the quartet performed last weekend. "Just my dad and him, and I sat in the front row."
Pizzarelli, who will also headline Wednesday and Thursday, has since sung and played guitar several times with the orchestra himself. And vocalist Jane Monheit, who will take over as headliner for the final two nights of Jazz Fest next Friday and Saturday, has performed with the Pops as well. (Up-and-coming young musicians associated with the Berklee College of Music will also perform before and after each evening's main event.)
"John and I go back a bit now," said Pops conductor Keith Lockhart. "We've worked together probably five or six times in various places over the years and just thought that it would be an immensely popular way to kick it off."
Pizzarelli has many tunes to choose from for the material he'll perform next week. His choices include: Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," a guitar piece his father taught him called "Chicken a la Swing," and selections from his most recent CD, "Knowing You."
The first half of each night's show will feature the Pops Orchestra on its own, performing a set list that Lockhart says will include Jelly Roll Morton's "Black Bottom Stomp," John Williams's "Swing, Swing, Swing" (the former Pops director's takeoff on Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" for the movie "1941"), Artie Shaw's "Concerto for Clarinet," and Duke Ellington's "Harlem."
Pizzarelli's appearances in Boston also kick off an unusually busy summer festival season for him, highlighted by his first performance at Newport, where he and Monheit will open the JVC Jazz Festival Aug. 11. There, Pizzarelli will be backed by a big band directed by Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra director John Mosca. It will mark the US premiere of music from Pizzarelli's forthcoming CD of Frank Sinatra covers, "Dear Mr. Sinatra." Pizzarelli will also be field-testing material from the CD earlier this summer in Canada, at the jazz festivals in Montreal and Ottawa.
The Sinatra tribute is Pizzarelli's latest effort in a career forged around reinvigorating the Great American Songbook and re-popularizing jazz. It's a task not much different from the Pops's longstanding mission of keeping orchestral music alive by keeping it interesting for mass audiences. And lately, Pizzarelli notes, more and more singers are doing likewise.
"Jane Monheit's made great records," he says. "Diana Krall also. And these records are selling, you know, between 500,000 and 2 to 3 million records. So there's been a real resurgence in the idea that people can create something out of what would appear to be a finite book of songs, and really isn't."
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio 80th Birthday Celebration
Regattabar, Charles Hotel, One Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-395-7757. 7:30 & 10 p.m. $24. Repeats Fri.
Randy Weston (right) played a flurry of concerts at the end of last month in celebration of his 80th birthday — the actual date was April 6 — with stops in New York, San Francisco, and Cleveland. Tonight he arrives with his African Rhythms Trio for more of the same at the Regattabar, where he and colleagues Alex Blake on bass and Neil Clarke on African percussion will likely perform pieces from "Zep Tepi," Weston's first trio recording in years. No one has done more to connect African music to jazz than Weston, who lived in Morocco for seven years and has traveled widely throughout the continent. But Weston retains strong links to his jazz piano forbears. "Weston," critic Stanley Crouch has opined, "has the biggest sound of any jazz pianist since Ellington and Monk."
Thurs 5-18 The Claudia Quintet Drummer/ composer John Hollenbeck's quintet of cutting-edge collaborators — including bassist Drew Gress, Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor sax, Matt Moran on vibraphone and percussion, and accordionist Ted Reichman — takes a minimalist approach to blending jazz, classical, and rock into music as palatable as it is progressive. Or as Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich put it, "Innovative jazz does not have to be harsh, angry, loud, shrill, or grating; it can be delicate, witty, ethereal, and radiantly lyric." The Lily Pad, Inman Square, 1353 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-388-1168. 8 p.m. $10.
Sat 5-20 Rebecca Parris Quartet Local vocal standout Parris has been singing at Water Music events for 21 years, sometimes alongside heavy hitters such as Dizzy Gillespie and Phil Woods. This weekend she'll lead favored sidemen of long standing, including pianist Brad Hatfield, bassist Peter Kontrimas, and drummer Matt Gordy. The Real Deal Jazz Club & Café, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge. 617-876-7777. 7 and 9:30 p.m. $18