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Bucky Pizzarelli is Old School


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I knew when I began looking for links to Bucky Pizzarelli that I would find tons of great jazz guitar. Though it is impossible to say so definitely without knowing him, it’s almost certain that I also found a good guy. For one thing, he generally is the headliner–he’s been around for ever and played with everyone–but he seems very happy to take a back seat to other players, including his son John. That fits his playing style well and, most likely, his personality.

Here is the beginning of his Wikipedia bio. Later on it notes that he was a member of Johnny Carson-era Tonight Show Band, which was led by Doc Severinsen:

John Paul “Bucky” Pizzarelli (born January 9, 1926) is an AmericanJazz guitarist and banjoist, and the father of jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and upright bassist Martin Pizzarelli. Pizzarelli has also worked for NBC as a staffman for Dick Cavett (1971) and also ABC with Bobby Rosengarden in (1952). The list of musicians Pizzarelli has collaborated with over his career includes Les PaulStephane Grappelli, and Benny Goodman. Pizzarelli acknowledges Django ReinhardtFreddie Green, and George Van Eps[1][2] for their influences on his style and mode of play. (Continue Reading…)

For the guitar players other there, here is a bit on Pizzarelli’s technique, from Classic Jazz Guitar:

His extraordinary skill as a rhythm player places him in the company of the great rhythm players like Freddie Greene and Barry Galbraith. And he has brought forward the great chord solo tradition begun by George Van Eps and Dick McDonough. Like George Van Eps, Bucky Pizzarelli adopted the seven-string electric guitar (in fact, playing the Gretsch Van Eps model for many years). And, although this guitar is very popular today, for many years, Bucky Pizzarelli, was considered the only guitarist next to George Van Eps, to play the seven-string electric guitar exclusively.

Along with being a dedicated preservationist of the old guitar music and the early styles of playing, Bucky Pizzarelli has also developed a very personal style that sets him apart. Recordings like Love Songs and NY Swing present a picture of the complete jazz musician and guitarist who moves effortlessly from the daunting format of the solo guitar to playing solid, swinging rhythm and single string solos in an ensemble setting.

Pizzarelli previously made an appearance at TDMB in a post about Tal Farlow. Above is “Sweet Georgia Brown.” The other player is Pizzarelli’s son John. Below is “Lester Leaps In” (with Frank DiBussolo). The video isn’t the greatest, but the playing is.


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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.