This past Sunday, famed jazz guitarist and Great American Songbook interpreter John Pizzarelli and his quartet performed at the Berrie Center. A capacity crowd filled Sharp Theater; the musical performance was sold out weeks prior to the performance.
Pizzarelli was accompanied by his brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass, drummer Tony Todesco and pianist Larry Fuller, all regulars in his quartet. The group only took up a fraction of the stage as they were huddled together in the center.
The foursome played a variety of upbeat jazz tunes with riveting drum and guitar solos that boasted impressive dexterity and musicianship. Many of the songs were from Pizzarelli’s latest musical venture, “Double Exposure,” named for its unique mixture of traditional jazz and classic pop songs.
Throughout the show Pizzarelli told nostalgic tales of his brushes with legendary talents like Frank Sinatra, Sir Paul McCartney and Paul Simon. A dash of humor was injected into many of these stories at the expense of his father Bucky Pizzarelli, also a well-respected rhythmic guitar player who travelled with his son early on in his career.
The assemblage of musicians played a lively show that had the audience clapping and engaged throughout the entirety of the performance. It does not come often that performers play as if it were their last gig, but the always popular John Pizzarelli quartet did just that. Pizzarelli, originally from Paterson, New Jersey comes to Ramapo College annually, typically welcomed by a full house.
The finale was appropriately a rendition of Pizzarelli’s own “I Like Jersey Best,” which elated the audience. In this song Pizzarelli infuses the playing and vocal style of famous musicians whilst using the lyrics to his song, famous names that he impersonated included Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Billie Holiday, Madeleine Peyroux, James Taylor, Harry Chapin, The Bee Gees, Johnny Cash, Lou Rawls and Lou Reed.
The performers were met with a standing ovation that extended to the back of the house and the balcony. Following the show, the lobby was vivacious as Pizzarelli signed CDs and took pictures with fans. Pizzarelli was personable and courteous to the line of excited spectators and pockets of people sprouted within the crowded the lobby to discuss the performance. The fall season of the Berrie Center’s lineup of performances is off to a promising start after the John Pizzarelli Quartet’s unforgettable act.