This is a wonderful, warm-hearted, and effortlessly virtuosic live recording by one of the finest living exponents of pre-bop small-ensemble jazz. With pianist Ray Kennedy
and bassist Martin Pizzarelli
(and on two songs joined by vocalist Grover Kemble
), singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli runs through a generally lightweight but thoroughly charming set of standards, homages, funny stories, and the occasional original tune; the fast tunes are light and frothy, the ballads smooth and gentle, and even the moments that are less than utterly inspired work together with the album's highlights to create a very satisfying whole. John Pizzarelli has a suit sponsor, which tells you something about what to expect of him as a singer: his voice is smooth and warm, offering a nice combination of Chet Baker
's timbre and Dean Martin
's fullness; as a guitarist you need to know that he favors seven-string guitars and flat-wound strings, leading him naturally to a swinging Django Reinhardt
kind of sound. As for the trio's instrumentation, it's true that when you can comp with this kind of authority you don't technically need a drummer. But on a few tracks a drummer would have filled out the band's sound nicely. Highlights include the group's fun, slightly greasy take on "Frim Fram Sauce" and a great ode to Art Tatum
called "Tea for Tatum," as well as a fine original blues composition titled "Headed Out to Vera's." Pizzarelli's own "Oh, How My Heart Beats for You" and "Day I Found You" are also wonderful. But the album's standout track is a limpidly gorgeous rendition of another original, "Better Run Before It's Spring." Pizzarelli is obviously having a blast in the intimate setting of the legendary Birdland club, and so will any jazz lover who takes the time to listen. Very highly recommended.