THE JAZZ SINGER
Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — Sure, John Pizzarelli can play a mean Peter Frampton riff when asked, but the 34-year-old jazz guitarist and singer would rather croon something like “Our Love is Here to Stay.”
Even though he’s been playing guitar since boyhood, Pizzarelli didn’t go the typical rock ‘n’ roll route. Instead, he followed his father — jazz guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli — and soaked up the influences of Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney and Django Reinhardt.
“I listened to rock at home, but I was going to gigs with Dad, so that’s what really made an impact,” said Pizzarelli, who started playing with his father in high school.
And it has led to some interesting experiences.
“One afternoon, when Bucky and I were downtown getting haircuts, one of the guys said he was doing the cooking for a big party that Richard Nixon was throwing that night,” Pizzarelli recalled. “He told us to come by and play. It turned out it was Pat’s 65th birthday. Nixon came over and started reminiscing about Sammy Davis Jr. with us.”
Now Pizzarelli plays with a three-piece combo — including brother Martin on bass and Ray Kennedy on piano — reworking old favorites and a few new songs. The most recent release is “New Standards.”
The trio has been touring on and off since this summer, including a recent two-week stint in Japan, but they took time off to record “Style is Coming Back in Style,” the first song heard in Robert Altman’s “Ready-to-Wear (Pret-a-Porter).”
“It was supposed to be Tony Bennett doing ‘Putting on the Ritz,’ ” explained Pizzarelli. “Then somebody involved with the music on the film heard this song, and the songwriter, Mike Stoller, graciously said that we were the only group he wanted to record it.”
Pizzarelli’s style is clearly in style these days as well. This week, his trio is in Paris for a two-week gig at the Meridien Hotel, and will play the Algonquin here in February. Before heading back to Europe for the month of April, they’ll go into the studio to record another album of old-new stuff.
“People always say to me, ‘Oh, isn’t it nice that this music is coming back,’ ” he mused. “Well, I’ve lived with it all my live. It never went away.”