Jazz in Pop: John Pizzarelli’s Double Exposure

Posted March 30th, 2012 at 3:50 pm (UTC+0)

John Pizzarelli's latest album

John Pizzarelli's latest album

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Jazz legend John Pizzarelli is getting ready to release his new album Double Exposure, a collection of great pop oldies rearranged and recast in a jazz style. Pizzarelli is one of the most versatile guitarists and singers on the jazz scene today. His latest album, which is proving the idea that jazz and pop can exist together, has taken everyone by surprise.

With a collection of 13 pop, rock and folk songs from a different generation, Double Exposure opens with Pizzarelli’s reversioned Beatles‘ upbeat song,” I feel Fine”. The soft spoken Pizzarelli and his band initially road tested songs during a performance last year at the renowned Birdland jazz club in New York City.  Pizzaelli and his band played Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” incorporating the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” inside.  The mix was well-received and drew applause.

Pizzarelli  also rearranged other oldies on Double Exposure, including Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam,” the Allman Brothers classic “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed,”  Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man In Paris,” Tom Waits’ “Drunk On The Moon,” Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Ruby Baby,” and songs by Billy Joel and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.

The album ends with a subtle remake of Seals and Crofts’ 1973 soft rock hit “Diamond Girl,” which quotes directly from Miles Davis’ 1950’s iconic “So What.”

“It’s funny – when we first did ‘Diamond Girl’ and a lot of the horn songs we actually got to play live at Birdland about a year ago just to see if this idea was anything,” said Pizzarelli in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “We actually played ‘So What’ and then sang ‘Diamond Girl’.”  Pizzarelli said people liked the new style very much.

Listen to John Pizzarelli and selected songs from Double Exposure:


John Pizzarelli was born in New Jersey in April 1960. He grew up in a house crowded with guitars, and everybody in his family played an instrument at one time or another. His father is the iconic guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.

“There were guitars in the house all the time. I once joked that if you wanted to sit down on the couch, you had to move a guitar you know,” said Pizzarelli who is known for his charming stage presence. “And eventually you say I’m moving this guitar very much I’ve got to try and play it. It was just something that we did and I didn’t even realize that I was making a living doing it.”

In his 20s, John Pizzarelli used to go out on jazz, pop and rock gigs, having a good time and getting a check. “It was just something that we enjoyed. I was making a living doing it. So, It’s very interesting how this sort of evolved,” he said.

Guitarist and composer John Pizzarelli

Guitarist and composer John Pizzarelli

Besides his father and sister, Pizzarelli was highly influenced by the legendary vocalist and pianist Nat King Cole, trumpeter Miles Davis, singer Frank Sinatra, pianist Duke Ellington, The Beatles, saxophonist Stan Getz and songwriter-arranger-guitarist-pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim.

With more than 40 albums under his belt, Pizzarelli is a prolific guitarist who has worked in a vast range of studio settings with many famous musicians – most recently in February – with Beatles legend Paul McCartney for an iTunes concert at Capital Records Studios in Hollywood, California.

“I made the record “Kisses on the Bottom” with him and Diana Krall was the piano player… and I got to play with him on the Grammy,” Pizzarelli said. “He [Paul McCartney] is just as humble and as lovely a musician as you could find, and a really talented musician.”

In 1998, Pizzarelli released his studio album, John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles, as a tribute to the Fab Four (The Beatles). The idea for one of the most talked-about albums was to recast and re-imagine some of the great oldies in a jazz setting. So he placed the songs into a different time as if someone else had performed them first. For instance, he rearranged “Here Comes The Sun” in a Brazilian Bossa Nova style – it was meant as a Jobim/Getz tribute.

Pizzarelli, who is also a radio host and a television personality, has just returned to the United States from a European tour where he performed and promoted Double Exposure. The album is slated for release in May.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

2 responses to “Jazz in Pop: John Pizzarelli’s Double Exposure”

  1. Un merci pour ton site internet.

  2. […] more on jazz guitarists, including interviews with Pat Metheny, John Pizzarelli, Rez Abbasi, and Berta Rojas, click […]



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