Monday, May 07, 2012

Bucky Pizzarelli - NYC Jazz Record

Bucky Pizzarelli - Challis In Wonderland

Guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, at the age of 86, has
produced an album in tribute to some of his
inspirations. The memories of arranger Bill Challis and
trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke anchor the album with a
collection of obscure standards aided by Pizzarelli’s
guitarist son John, bassist Jerry Bruno and the Dick
Lieb Strings.

The album opens with the bouncy “Sunday”,
setting the tone with Pizzarelli’s chunky four-to-thebar
chords as the Dick Lieb Strings carry the melody.
After Pizzarelli’s full-bodied solo he trades fours with
featured violinist Aaron Weinstein who proves the
gem of the album with engaging solos on the seesawing
“Davenport Blues” as well as both versions of “Sugar”.
With just Bruno accompanying them, Pizzarelli
and Weinstein cut loose on the first version of “Sugar”
with a bouncy midtempo approach. Weinstein does his
best to summon the legacy of Stephane Grappelli in his
melodic phrasing while Pizzarelli lays down an equally
Hot Club-indebted jaunt. The full-band reprise of
“Sugar” towards the end of the album finds Pizzarelli
and Weinstein equally playful but pushed a little
harder by the presence of the string section. “Oh Baby”
is the most upbeat track on the album, with a
delightfully thick pulse laid down by the leader and
Bruno while Weinstein steps up to the plate to highlight
his mandolin skills. The foot-tapping pulse proves you
don’t need a drummer to drive a beat.

The self-titled track is the lone original of the
album. Pizzarelli’s gentle melody nods to Ellington’s
“Prelude to a Kiss” as it floats gently with help from
his son on seven-string guitar. Father and son later
stretch out for the most recognizable standard on the
album, “What’s New”. Guitars and bass delicately
swing across the changes before the senior Pizzarelli
closes out the record alone with Beiderbecke’s
“Flashes”, leaving no doubt about his mastery.
The album is a swinging collection of tunes that
honors the undersung Challis while also displaying
Pizzarelli’s still boisterous chops. The string
arrangements by Lieb are a nice touch, putting them
front and center rather than swaying delicately in the
background while the alternating tracks offer smooth,
in-the-pocket performances from family and friends.

Bucky Pizzarelli @ NYC JAzz Record

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