John Pizzarelli's latest CD highlights his singing of standards from the great American songbook - mostly pre-1960s classics, with a few more modern popular songs included as well. The selections are well suited to Pizzarelli's endearing vocal style and attitude - not overpowering or daunting in virtuosity. He's somehow able to be convincingly romantic in a regular-guy kind of way (if he were an actor he'd be more like Gene Kelly or Donald O' Connor rather than the glamorously romantic Clark Gable or suave Cary Grant.) Here he alternates the sincere love song and ballads with lightly humorous songs in the tradition of Bob Dorough, Michael Franks, or Dave Frishberg. It's no accident that he includes a couple of Frishberg tunes on this disc. Pizzarelli's tasteful acoustic guitar accompanies on about half tracks, though he doesn't solo front and center. Rather, he makes way for brief, well-crafted solos by such able sidemen as Harry Allen on tenor sax, Ken Peplowski on clarinet, Larry Goldings on organ, and pianists Ray Kennedy and Tony Monte. Among the 14 vocals is just one instrumental, a short and sweet original for his guitar with piano-trio backing. A worthy disc, top notch for its ilk.
By Howard Feldstein