Guitarist John Pizzarelli is playing through Sunday at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley.
One of Seattle’s best summer traditions doesn’t happen in the warmth of the sun, but in the cool, darkened room that is Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, where jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli returned Thursday and is playing through Sunday with his seven-stringed guitar and a deep and joyful knowledge of the Great American Songbook.
Pizzarelli is the greatest guitarist you may never have heard of — but absolutely should. An evening in his presence is a two-hour smile, listening to songs written in another time, but that hold up better than last month’s Top 40.
Pizzarelli is the whole package: A masterful guitarist, a smooth and romantic singer, and the consummate entertainer who peppers every set with stories about each song, impressions of everyone from Bob Dylan to Billie Holiday and tales from time spent playing beside his father, the great jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. (Les Paul used to come around the house in New Jersey, and, when you played with him onstage, was known to pull the cord out of your guitar, leaving you ampless.)
You are entertained, you are charmed, and you are taught something.
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That song was written by the great Johnny Mercer, Pizzarelli will say, or made famous by Nat King Cole. That one was penned by Bobby Troup, who was married to the sultry singer Julie London, who made the record cover a thing of beauty. For a record called “Round Midnight,” Pizzarelli recalled, London posed with her legs up against a clock.
“It’s how I learned to tell time,” he said.
But it’s not all stories and wisecracks. Pizzarelli is seemingly capable of anything: bossa nova, jazz, scatting, crooning.
Backed by the gifted and versatile pianist Konrad Paszudzkie and bassist Mike Karn, Pizzarelli started his four-night run Thursday with sets of songs about food (“The Frim Fram Sauce,” among them); another filled with “you” songs (including “I Thought About You” written by Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen), and almost all of them about the beauty, pain and simplicity of romance, including “Somethin’ Like Love,” which Pizzarelli wrote with his wife, the singer Jessica Molaskey, while in the midst of picking up their daughter from school.
There was a story there, too.
“Somethin’ like the crack of a bat,” the song goes. “Somethin’ that thrills you like that. Somethin’ that’s warm and inviting, but cool and exciting. Somethin’ like love.”
Pizzarelli is at Jazz Alley through Sunday, with two shows on Friday and Saturday. Make a new summer tradition. Go.