The Kennedy Center

John Pizzarelli, Jr.


John Pizzarelli, Jr., vocalist & guitarist, has cultivated a winning career by singing classic standards, late-night ballads of the '40s and '50s, adding his personal swing style to contemporary material, and playing sublime and inventive guitar that has won over a new audience ready for swing and swoon.

Using greats like Nat "King" Cole and Frank Sinatra and the songs of writers like Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen as touchstones, Pizzarelli is among the prime revivalists of the popular American songbook, bringing to his work the cool jazz flavor of brilliant guitar playing.

Raised in New Jersey, since the age of six John, Jr. has followed in the tradition of his father, the great jazz guitarist John "Bucky" Pizzarelli. He began to play the banjo at the age of six and by age 10 was learning the guitar by watching and working with his father. He was exposed to all the great jazz music of the era, from Erroll Garner, Les Paul, Benny Goodman, and Django Reinhardt. He played in a rock band during his high school years, but at the age of twenty he began playing with his father, sitting in, for example, with Bucky and Zoot Sims in a 1980 concert, and singing ballads in a soft, whispery style.

Mr. Pizzarelli worked for a while with Tony Monte's trio and in 1990 began his own solo career. He formed a trio that included his brother Martin on bass and pianist Ray Kennedy, and began to develop his own distinctive style. Since 1992 the Pizzarelli Trio has toured throughout Europe and the United States, receiving rave reviews. John Pizzarelli still had doubts about his career direction. He has said about the period, "I was the only guy making a living playing jazz to support his rock and roll habit." In 1993 the group toured as the opening act for Frank Sinatra and joined the Carnegie Hall celebration for Sinatra's 80th birthday.

Pulled ever closer to swing, John Pizzarelli Jr. appeared for five months as Johnny Mercer in the Broadway musical Dream, followed by a cameo appearance on the television series "Melrose Place." Recently Mr. Pizzarelli was rated third favorite male singer (only after Sinatra and Mel Torme) by readers of the Japanese Swing Journal.

His discography includes four albums recorded for Stash Records in the 1980, My Blue Heaven and the instrumental One Night with You (Chesky Records 1990 and 1996). He began recording for RCA/Novus with All of Me in 1991, and since then has made seven more albums for the label: Naturally (1992), New Standards (1993), Dear Mr. Cole (1994), After Hours (1995), Let's Share Christmas (1996), Our Love is Here to Stay (1997), and his recent album, the inventive John Pizzarelli Meets The Beatles (1999) combining the timeless songs of the Beatles with the ageless sound of swing. John Pizzarelli, Jr., also recorded the highly praised album Contrasts on the Arbors label with his father, Bucky Pizzarelli. Kisses in the Rain, his Telarc debut (release date: 2/22/00), is a collection of 16 standards and original compositions played with immaculate precision by Pizzarelli's working trio, with brother Martin on bass and longtime associate Ray Kennedy on piano.

Last updated: March 1, 2007
John Pizzarelli, Jr.