PREVIEW EDINBURGH JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVALS
& BLUES FESTIVALS PREVIEW
Seven string swing
Kenny Mathieson considers the jazz credentials of the Pizzarelli family.
The first titne John Pizarrelli met up with Harry Connick Jr. he recalls that the substance of the conversation was pretty much a question from Connick — ‘Do they ask you about me as much as they ask me about you‘?‘
Comparisons. of course. are always invidious. but music writers thrive on them. and Pizzarelli was inevitably going to be set up alongside Harry
lthough he was doing his stuff well before Connick E’Oke big). While undoubtedly broadly comparable. their respective approaches to the classic popular song repertoire are quite different. and Pizzarelli clearly isn‘t going to waste much time worrying about it.
‘My thing is to make your point and get on with it. i picked up on this music when l was a kid from listening to Nat King Cole. l learned all those songs back then. and it was Nat rather than Tony Bennett or Sinatra that really hooked me — he had that jazz thing. it swung. it was funny. it was everything i really wanted to do.‘
Pizzarelli‘s latest album for RCA Novus. Dear Mr Cole. makes that debt explicit in a poised tribute to the master. with pianist Benny Green and bass maestro Christian McBride helping the guitarist swing the music clean off its foundations. Wisely. he avoids any attempt to replicate Cole‘s classic phrasing and manner. and employs his own precise but relaxed vocal nuances.
it should come as no real surprise that he has chosen to pursue a career in jazz swing. given that he was brought up on a first-hand diet of the stuff. courtesy
of his father. guitarist Bucky l’izzarelli. who will accompany his boy at the Festival (brother Martin is also a musican. and plays bass in the family trio). Both l’izzarelli Snr and Jr favour the seven-string guitar developed by George Van Eps. which allows extra bass presence and the possibility of playing an accentuated piano-style bass line against the melody. and both are excellent swing players.
‘i don't really know if my father wanted me to follow him and become a musician. but he liked the fact that we spent a lot of time playing duets together — he liked to play Bix Beiderbecke tunes as guitar duets. The family connection goes back even further than that. though my great uncles were both virtuoso banjo players. and one of them. Bobby Domenick. played guitar in swing bands as well.
‘We had music around the house a lot. i remember the day after Christmas was always Zoot Sims night. He would come around and play my sister's clarinet after dinner. i remember one time when Joe Venuti came over and sat in the living room and told lots of
John Pizzarelli: smooth and sweet stories and played, on guitar and piano as well as violin. Joe Pass came arotmd. too - that was the first time i had ever heard anybody play guitar that fast right in front of my nose.‘
Despite that grounding. Pizzarelli did not move straight into jazz. but put in a stint playing with a bar rock band called Johnny Pick and the Scabs -~ ‘sometimes we'd do beach music and call ourselves Johnny Ride and the Waves' -- in New York. but the genes won out eventually. and he took up his true vocation.
He has recorded instrumental duet albums with his father as well as vocal albums under his own name. and has relished the opportunity to work with a big band when it has come along. savouring the buzz generated by playing in front of a live audience.
‘When people are really listening. and they get really excited. that's what it's all about for me.‘
Juli/i Pt'zzarelli plays with Bucky l’ixurel/i (1/ 1/16 festival Theatre at 8pm (m Wal 9. uml u/ lllt’ (bl/on Clul) (if 5pm on Wed 9. uml 8pm on Thurs /().
lithe headline acts in the Blues Festival belong more to the urban blues tradition which spread from Chicago in the 50s, one oi the most intriguing artists on the bill cleaves solidly to the acoustic roots of the music. Catilsh Keith tops the menu on the new acoustic stage on Sunday with his characteristically individual take on that tradition.
He grew up In Davenport, lowa, home oi Bix Belderbecke, and his slant on the blues incorporates elements
changed his Iiie.
message to go out.’
Catilsh Keith: ready to cook
drawn from early jazz, rhythm and blues and Hawaiian music. Its base and substance, though, lies in the classic Mississippi Delta blues oi the likes oi Son House, the artist who
‘I started to pick up guitar when I was iiiteen, and l iound this Son House record. I put It on and, man, the emotional impact oi the way he played and sang those blues really knocked me out. i’m still rooted in that down- home blues tradition, although i also incorporate things that have come along later, and i make up a lot oi new lyrics and so on - I want a positive
The guitarist is equally at home in finger-picking and slide styles, and plays both Hatlonal steel and acoustic guitar. His latest album, Fresh Catfish, is his ilith recording, and the iourth on
his own Fish Tail label, which he runs with his wiie out of lowa City.
The two-day Blues Festival takes place in The Cavendish at Tollcross tor the first time this year, and is split into four separate sections. The Saturday night attractions are British singer Big Joe Louis and His Blues Kings, iollowed by Jimmy Rogers, a Delta bluesman who helped forge the urban Chicago style after moving north at the birth oi that phenomenon.
Sunday night headliners are singer Angela Brown, who made her breakthrough playing blues legend Ma Hainey oil-Broadway, and the UK- based Caliiornian bluesman Otis Brand. (Kenny Mathieson)
The Blues Festival is at The Cavendish on Sat 12-«8un 13; Catfish Keith plays on the Acoustic Stage at 5pm on Sun
I The List 28 Jul-10 Aug 1995