FRANK AND TONY AND PEGGY AND ME
Making music with the Great Singers –
Celebrating Bucky Pizzarelli’s 85th Birthday!
By Linda Amiel Burns
The weekend of January 8-10 was another sold out weekend at the 92nd Street Y for the first show of the 2011 season of the Lyrics & Lyricists Series celebrating the 85th birthday of Bucky Pizzarelli. It was a family affair with son John Pizzarelli as the charming host who also led the six-piece band of incredible musicians, which included brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass and daughter in law Jessica Molaskey on vocals. She also helped put the concert together and surprisingly shares the January 9th with her famous father-in-law.
The concert opened up with a screen showing vintage photos of Bucky and the family with a narration from an interview that Bucky had done in the past. His laugh and joy in what he does is infectious. On January 9th, 1954 Bucky and Ruth got married –so this was also their 57th wedding anniversary. John calls his mother “Saint Ruth” as Bucky was on the road a lot and she had four children to raise at home.
Bucky is a legendary jazz guitarist and has performed and recorded with such iconic singers as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and countless others. The cast also included Judy Kuhn and Darius DeHaas and the songs in the first act represented many of the singers that Bucky worked with. One of his first gigs was with Vaughn Monroe in Patterson, NJ in 1941 and John sang and played “Racing With The Moon.” Jessica then performed “It’s a Good Day” (1944) written by Peggy Lee and her husband Dave Barbour. Judy came next with a lovely rendition of “Hey There” made famous by Rosemary Clooney. Darius sang a swinging version of “Sweet Lorraine” that Nat King Cole had a hit with. A note was read from Dion who said that his 18 gold records would not have been possible without Bucky’s contributions and the cast closed the first act with an eleven song medley from the 60’s starting with Dion’s “Runaround Sue”, Sherry” & “Rag Doll” (Four Seasons), A Teenager In love (Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman), “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” & “Calendar Girl” (Neil Sedaka), “Put Your Head on My Shoulder (Paul Anka) and many others.
The second act opened with John singing “I Want To Be a Sideman” (Dave Frishberg) as Bucky is the ultimate sideman who many times ran to and played as many as five or six gigs per day. The Birthday Boy was finally introduced to a standing ovation and he and John played a duet of fabulous “Honeysuckle Rose (Fats Waller & Andy Razaf). It was historic to see father and son play together and the love and respect that they have for each other is obvious. Bucky played a solo of “This Nearly Was Mine” and then everyone joined in for “Sing, Sing, Sing” (Louis Prima). The cast came on stage for the final song “Yes, Sir That’s My Baby” and the sing-along screen came down with the lyrics for the audience to join in the final song.
It was a sensational concert and a great opening to what looks to be a special season of “L & L 2011.” I felt honored to be at this birthday celebration concert for Bucky Pizzarelli given by his loving and talented family. May he continue playing that guitar in his own special way for may years to come!
On Feb. 12-14 Burton Lane will be honored for his musical contribution to The Great American Songbook.
For more info and tickets go to www.92Y.org.Lyrics or call 212 415-5500.