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July/August 2006

Rick Haydon and John Pizzarelli
Just Friends
Mel Bay Records

Rick Haydon might not be as familiar as John Pizzarelli, the son of jazz guitar royalty and a rapidly developing performer who has crossed over into mainstream appeal, but the guitarist has nearly a half-century of chops that show through on Just Friends. For the past 25 years, Haydon has taught at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, after learning his trade from Bucky Pizzarelli (John’s dad), Johnny Smith and Pat Martino.

Both guitarists play Bill Moll seven-string axes, so it would’ve been nice if this album did a better job of distinguishing one from the other. They each get their own channel, but it’s not until the third track, the ballad “Sometime Ago,” that the liner notes point out Pizzarelli’s artificial harmonics and we get a chance to compare and contrast styles.

But ultimately, it’s a minor quibble. Although the duo only played together on a couple of occasions prior to this session, their musical touchstones and graceful styles blend together like a seasoned team. Four of the 11 tracks come from a 1957 Al Cohn-Zoot Sims album (“Chasin’ the Blues,” “Two Funky People,” “Halley’s Comet” and “It’s a Wonderful World”) and the interplay between the guitars evokes the cohesion of the two tenors. “Tony’s Tune,” a Tony Mottola piece, offers one of the album’s strong tributes as well. Pizzarelli’s bass-playing brother Martin and drummer Tony Tedesco leave the emphasis on the guitarists but keep the foundation solid.

Originally published in July/August 2006
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