John Pizzarelli

| May 2, 2017

John Pizzarelli

Café Carlyle, NYC, April 11, 2017

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

John Pizzarelli
Photo: David Andrako

John Pizzarelli performing Johnny Mercer is just “Too Marvelous for Words,” proven at the Café Carlyle. It’s hard to get much better than New York’s Huckleberry Friend delving into the Mercer canon. Pizzarelli has the outgoing, mischievous personality to deliver Mercer favorites like “Goody Goody” (with Matty Malneck), or Mercer’s story of a football hero, “Jamboree Jones.” “Gosh all, git up,” Pizzarelli even added “Jeepers Creepers” (music: Harry Warren). 

He delivers a show that comes off as loose and casual, but musically, it is tight, with pops of jazzy surprise from Pizzarelli on guitar, Mike Karn on bass and Konrad Paszkuski on piano.

He shows the intelligence to deliver the wit and essence in a lyric and illustrates why Johnny Mercer was on everybody’s list of clever lyricists. Going back to “Too Marvelous for Words,” Pizzarelli matches Mercer’s A-plus lyrics with the Richard Whiting switches of rhythm and wit, delivering a rendition that is certainly “just too very very.” 

Mercer wrote many songs for the movies. Some of them included here are a tender “Emily” with Mercer’s lyrics to Johnny Mandel’s music for The Americanization of Emily, a film that never featured the song. It became a hit, just as “Something’s Gotta Give” did, probably the last sophisticated Astaire song Mercer did for the movies. Mercer received four Academy Awards: “In The Cool Cool Cool of the Evening” (with Hoagy Carmichael); “On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (Warren); and, to music by Henry Mancini, “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Moon River.”

Pizzarelli included two other medleys, one centered around the word “you.”  These were thoughtful standards: “I Thought About You”; (Jimmy Van Heusen); “I Remember You” (Victor Schertzinger); and “I’m with You” (Bobby Troup). Another medley circled around October, including Germany’s “Summer Wind” (Heinz Meier/ Hans Bradtke), France’s “When the World Was Young” (“Ah, the Apple Trees”) (Philippe-Gerard/Angèle Vannier), and “Autumn Leaves,” Mercer’s lyrics based on “Les feuilles mortes” with Joseph Kosma’s music with French lyrics by Jacques Prévert.  Outstanding in the medley was “When October Goes” (music by Barry Manilow). 

If you want a breezy program of “glorious, glamorous, and that old standby amorous,” great songs, with a free-and-easy delivery and a generous dose of jazz, John Pizzarelli and Johnny Mercer are beyond compare.

The engagement continues through Saturday, May 6.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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