The Great Jazz Guitarist Dead At 92, Here is A Review From Six Years Ago: Bucky Pizzarelli At The Cutting Room, Friday, May 2nd, 2014, Reviewed
(Bucky died on April 2nd at the age of 92… here is my live review from six years years prior -IL)
Within the first twenty minutes of the Cutting Room “Swing Xing” we have heard Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are”, Irving Berlin’s “If I Had You” (“Written in 1921, just a few years before you were born, Bucky” ) and Johnny Mercer’s “Tangerine”. The four guitarists playing these song are big names in modern swing. Nominally lead by Frank Vignola, who broke onto the jazz scene in 1993 and who Les Paul would call one of Les’s top five guitarist and joined by young buck twenty something Vinny Raniolo, who sometimes performs as a duo with Frank. Ed Laub, who was taught by Bucky’s Uncle and has performed with Bucky for the past twelve years and is an unannounced guest. And all headed by the epitome of a legend, former “The Tonight Show Band member (I mean the real one, with Johnny Carson) eighty eight year old legend Bucky Pizzarelli.
“Who needs the Beatles?” Frank asks, and with this fab four around he has a point. For twenty minutes, Vinny held down the beat on his rhythm guitar, Ed complemented Bucky and Bucky and Frank traded finger picked licks that swung from the rafters. Bucky has lost nothing, he is all tactile swiftness and deep smiles with Frank keeping an eye on him, waiting for a nod from the master to take over.
It was followed by Ed Laub and the only vocal of the evening, taking “Rhode Island Is Famous For You” -a song I knew by Blossom Dearie on a wonderful spin. I love puns and “Rhode Island” has them by the boatloads… pencils come from Pennsylvania, minnows from Minnesota, but you come Rhode Island (the smallest State) is famous for you.
Frank and Vinny perform part of their solo set next, with all of “Speak Softly Love”, a snippet of “Stairway To Heaven”, Vinny making devil horns, and, gosh and golly, Cliff Richard’s backing band The Shadows “Apache”, capped it up with a rip roaring, high speed chase “Tico Tico” (composed by Zequinha de Abreu) and an original “Gypsy Mania”. Impressive stuff that had Ed claiming he wanted to sell his guitar.
Bucky takes the lead with the lilting “Snowfall” and the mood quietens for a couple of songs until the encore where a cover of Les Paul’s “It’s Been A Long Long Time” leads to a singalong by the audience. It is a wonderful moment but they have all been wonderful moments. The camaraderie and respect on stage is palpable and the vision of Bucky still dextrous, still spanning the guitar frame, pinging notes sweet accurate, one after another like snowdrops is to look in wonder at him. The way the three musicians do. They always steer towards him and let him lead them; to spend your career in music. Bucky joined the Vaughn Monroe Band in 1944, and after a stint in the infantry towards the end of WW2, rejoined the Monroe Band before joining the NBC orchestra in 1952 and the Tonight Show in 1964.
To watch Bucky still performing 50 years later, his hard fast notes on an outstanding “Three Little Words” where he more then keeps pace with the other guitarists, where his fingers are a blur as he twitches and hits and when he pulls too hard on a string, he half grimaces, is to see a type of life, an artist’s life, unfold before your eyes.