September 29, 2016

More Jazz in Utah than the Basketball Team

“I hate jazz.” My wife declared, “and I’m not going.” Our night was off to a rough start. I had promised

my friend, who gave us the tickets, that I would attend the concert of jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli at

the Capitol Theater. So, feeling obligated, I told my wife that we had to go, and perhaps we would be

pleasantly surprised.

It’s a rare treat when you go into something believing you will hate it, but then find a entirely bigger world

exists which you had miscategorized or inaccurately stereotyped. I developed the belief that the only

good Jazz in Utah is when the Utah Jazz post a rare victory, like when they beat LeBron a few weeks ago

at home.

Like my wife, most new jazz music and jazz musicians are far too esoteric. My ears lack the gymnastic

capability to find the randomness of “modern jazz” pleasing. But I don’t hate “jazz” music is just seems the

genre has been hijacked by people who prefer to play lots of odd combinations of notes rather than the

melodies that brought jazz into the forefront of pop culture back when Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck,

Duke Ellington and so many other greats were around.

I never imagined living jazz musicians, who play music I can enjoy, touched down in these parts. But

thanks to a SLC philanthropist, Gordon Hanks, the GAM Foundation exists and musicians who would

never otherwise come to Salt Lake City, are brought here, simply because as Mr. Hanks says, “I have a

passion for the music.” Hank’s pinkish white bald head could be seen jamming to John Pizzarelli in the

front row. He’s a guy having a great time showing Utahns the greater world of great music.

Steve Williams from KUED Jazz, introduced John Pizzarelli. Unlike the subdued voice he uses on the

radio, Williams was very much excited to present Pittarelli, “These guys can just swing like nobody else..”

More than a pleasant surprise, John Pizzarelli quartet demonstrated not only incredible talent, but variety

of classic jazz, we both thoroughly enjoyed. It was obvious right from the get go, that Pizzarelli was

performing something that might have been more common fifty or sixty years ago. But today, to watch

such a master at his craft, I was reminded of the movie starring Sean Penn, Sweet and Lowdown, on the

life of Django Reinhardt. Pizzarelli’s rhythm guitar and fingerpicking solos, were as mind-blowing as any

great guitarist I’ve seen.

Pizzarelli played songs dating back to the 1920s. One very sweet song, A Shine On My Shoes, was

written by Harold Arlen who is also credited for composing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The lyrics and

the melodies were familiar, but most songs had a special twist. When he played, Don’t Get Around Much

Any More, he pointed out how this is actually a very depressing song. So he changed to the much more

downbeat song, ““East St. Louis Toodle-oo” to match the depressing lyrics.

Missed the Saturday dance

Heard they crowded the floor

Couldn’t bear it without you

Don’t get around much anymore…

I can say he might be a rarity, in that he is both an extremely talented musician, but more importantly

he has an excellent ear for great music, or at least jazz taste that matches my own. Pizzarelli’s was the

consummate entertainer, his storytelling ability and relaxed nature on the stage, insured his show was

never boring and actually very funny.

Pizzarelli’s father is also a hugely famous jazz guitar “giant”. Bucky Pizzarelli. His brother Martin played

the bass guitar. Both his piano player, Konrad Paszkudzki (who resides in Australia) and drummer —

were fantastic. The band played together as such a cohesive unit. The Capitol Theater is a surprisingly

intimate venue, and to experience so many great songs by such an accomplished group of musicians

made for a very special night. Thanks Gordon Hanks and thanks to Jeff Whiteley (Director of Excellence

in the Community) for the tickets and for bringing Utah some winning Jazz. §