Bucky Pizzarelli


Bucky Pizzarelli snapped from my perch at the bar of the Montreal Bistro in Toronto - Saturday, March 18, 2006
Last Saturday night I was at the Montreal Bistro where Jim Galloway presented a "WEE JAZZ PARTY" with his friends Bucky Pizzarelli, Johnny Varro, John Allred, Allan Vache, Archie Alleyne and Dave Young. Galloway is a sentimental favourite for me, but also, hands down, my favourite soprano player working today. Does that man swing! Any chance to see Dave Young play is a treat. And I'd never seen Bucky Pizzarelli live. Needless to say, I was a wee bit excited!

Bucky Pizzarelli is adorable. One of the greatest guitar players of his generation? An innovator? An institution? Sure. You bet. But also...ADORABLE! You can't help but smile when you look at him. His charm is infectious. He's grandfatherly. In fact, I wish he were my grandfather. Actually, that would make John or Martin Pizzarelli my father which would just be weird. And probably kind of Oedipal. Let's just avoid that creepy scenario altogether and call the senior Pizzarelli avuncular instead. I'm not sure I can impress upon you how cute this man is. At one point I had to close my eyes to be able to focus on his sound and not the fact that I wanted to sit at his feet and pinch his cheeks. But I digress. Yet again.

The set opened with the whole band on stage working through a trio of Gershwin classics - Strike up the Band, They Can't Take That Away From Me (which Galloway dedicated to Revenue Canada) and I Got Rhythm. Things really started to cook once they hit I Got Rhythm with John Allred on trombone standing out as the most inventive soloist. He was really reaching that night. Maybe because he had the weekend off from his pit-gig in NY playing for The Pajama Game (Harry Connick Jr. is starring in that show to rave reviews. I'm guessing he took Allred with him since he is a regular member of Harry's big band).

After the first three numbers the whole band cleared the stage, leaving Pizzarelli alone for a solo number. He played Honeysuckle Rose so beautifully and to such great effect it was even quieter than it usually is at The Montreal Bistro. There is a "quiet policy" in place at that club but during this number, I think the crowd was collectively holding their breath. Pizzarelli plays a seven-string electric guitar; the extra string (tuned to A) allows him to play a bass line to his own solos - the sound was so rich and layered, it was complex and haunting. There was an audible sigh of pleasure from everyone in the room before they burst into applause upon the tune's completion.

Dave Young then joined Bucky on stage for Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me adding his usual taste, swing and timing.

Archie Alleyne was then added to the mix for On The Street of Dreams and A Sleepin' Bee. It was cool to see Alleyne play with these guys. This is the kind of gig, in Toronto at least, that would normally have gone to Don Vickery. Vickery's a reliable drummer who rarely solos and keeps impeccable time, something that seems welcome to these trad players. But it can all be a little too pedestrian and predictable. To see Alleyne play with this group, when I'm used to seeing him play hard bop in the tradition of Art Blakey, well, it was quite something. Dave Young, of course, plays everything and plays with everyone and he was clearly getting a kick out of the fact that Alleyne was taking the occasional solo and really challenging the band with his choices. He still played within the limits of the Dixieland, swing thing they were doing but he succeeded in making it his own.

Bucky then took a break and Johnny Varro took the spotlight, playing a few tunes - Have You Met Miss Jones and A Beautiful Friendship among them - in the trio format.

The whole band congregated once more and really swung the set to a close with It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing. Needless to say, it did. Quite a meaningful evening indeed.


An aside: I would have reported back sooner, but things have been a little hectic for me lately what with a big project at "CSIS" (and the mother of all head colds). I don't want to get into the details because I don't talk about my work here. I like to think I have other things to talk about and frankly, I would live in fear of getting "dooced" if I did blab about my day job. I will say only this...it rhymes with the "Ford of the Blings" and it is not nearly the disaster the blood hungry press in Toronto and the New York Times, et al would have you believe. Check it out for yourselves, folks. Populist entertainment. And that's all I'm saying. About. That.


  1. Anonymous12:32 PM

    BT is jealous and wishes she had been there. Although my evening seeing Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott on the big screen would be the equivalent in terms of western fan vs jazz fan. Ya' think?

    PS: I love the way you write about music!

  2. I was wondering whether you'd be telling us about the Flig Groduction... good ta hear it sucketh not.+

  3. Thanks BT :) - I would agree any evening involving Joel McCrea = good. times. Yes, indeedy! We just came back from Junior Bonner. Robert Preston also = good times, wouldn't you say?

    Jep - the flig groduction isn't perfect, but it's not without merit. Much more balanced reviews ran in Time Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Chicago, Detroit, the UK, etc, etc than did here in TO. Guess we're eating our young again this week here in Canada...


Proudly designed by | mlekoshiPlayground |