John Pizzarelli started playing guitar at age six, following in the tradition of his father, American jazz guitarist and banjoist, Bucky Pizzarelli. He turned to jazz in his late teens after playing in rock bands, and he received an education playing with his father and many jazz greats who would influence his work: Benny Goodman, Les Paul, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Slam Stewart, among others.
His solo recording career started in 1990 with “My Blue Heaven” on Chesky Records. He played clubs and concert halls on the jazz circuit, opening for such greats as Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis and Rosemary Clooney. In 1993, he was honored to open for Frank Sinatra’s international tour and then joined in the celebration for his 80th birthday at Carnegie Hall, bringing down the house by singing “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do” with his father accompanying him.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the John Pizzarelli Trio along with pianist Ray Kennedy and bassist/brother Martin Pizzarelli, Live at Birdland was released in April 2003. This two-disc set seamlessly blends James Taylor folk with Gershwin and Van Heusen standards in addition to original Pizzarelli compositions. After listening to the recording, a JazzTimes critic raved, “Spend five minutes with Pizzarelli and you’ll fully appreciate his inimitable warmth, humor and munificence of spirit.”
Pizzarelli marries songs from great pop songwriters of his own generation with traditional jazz arrangements and melodies. “Double Exposure”, released in 2012, united the Beatles and Lee Morgan, Tom Waits with Billy Strayhorn and the Allman Brothers Band with the style of Wes Montgomery. As he told the Wall Street Journal, “I asked myself a couple of questions: ‘How can we take the style we do and communicate it to people who grew up on Gershwin and people who grew up on the Beatles? How do we communicate jazz to the non-jazz listeners?’” The Guardian in the U.K. was among the many publications to praise the album: “The arrangements are sharp and witty, the singing deceptively easygoing, and the guitar playing just terrific. It’s a delight.”
Pizzarelli’s latest album, “Midnight McCartney”, has its origins in McCartney’s GRAMMY®-winning 2012 album, Kisses on the Bottom. Pizzarelli played guitar on 10 of the album’s 14 tracks and backed Sir Paul at an iTunes concert at Capitol Records Studios, the GRAMMY® Awards and the Recording Academy’s annual MusiCares Person of the Year Gala.
In addition to being a bandleader and solo performer, John has been a special guest on recordings for major pop names such as James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Kristin Chenoweth, Tom Wopat, Rickie Lee Jones and Dave Van Ronk, as well as leading jazz artists like Rosemary Clooney, Ruby Braff, Johnny Frigo, Buddy DeFranco, Harry Allen and, of course, Bucky Pizzarelli. He was featured opposite Donna Summer, Jon Secada and Roberta Flack on the GRAMMY® Award-winning CD, “Songs from the Neighborhood: The Music of Mr. Rogers” in 2005.
John has performed on the country’s most popular national television shows such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Late Show with David Letterman, Conan, Live with Regis & Kelly, The Tony Danza Show and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In 1997, Pizzarelli made his Broadway debut in the musical Dream, a revue of Johnny Mercer songs. He led a 40-member live orchestra at Radio City Music Hall in Sinatra: His Voice, His World, His Way in 2003. His instructional DVD Exploring Jazz Guitar – filled with demonstrations, lessons and anecdotes – is available from Hal Leonard. Pizzarelli received the 2009 Ella Fitzgerald Award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival, joining a select group of past winners including Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett and Harry Connick, Jr.
Pizzarelli performs annual engagements at the Café Carlyle with Jessica Molaskey and at Birdland with his jazz combo. He continues to tour throughout the United States, Europe, South America and Japan, performing classic pop, jazz and swing, while setting the standard for stylish modern jazz.
This is John Pizzarelli’s fourth appearance at the Litchfield Jazz Festival. He will be playing the music of Sinatra and Jobim.