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April 2009

Bucky Pizzarelli and Strings
So Hard to Forget
Arbors Records

After listening to So Hard to Forget, a case could be made that leaving Bucky Pizzarelli to his own devices is the way to go—if not that, then simply leave him in the company of fellow seven-string guitarist Frank Vignola.

Pizzarelli opens the album with a performance of “Laura” that initially displays his gifts as a soloist capable of freshening an evergreen with light-fingered arpeggios, sparkling harmonics and chord substitutions that seem to fall inevitably into place. Not long afterward, again playing solo, the veteran guitarist and jazz-family patriarch introduces “It’s Easy to Remember” in the same artful manner. Additional glimpses of his stellar autonomy pop up elsewhere on the album, not least the acoustic renderings of the first and second movements of Federico Torroba’s “Sonatina in A.” When Vignola makes his entrance, eight tunes into this 13-track collection of mostly pop standards, the pairing of guitarists helps produce great chemistry and delightful collaborations, as evidenced by the performances of “Prelude to a Kiss” and “Boots Blues.”

And the string arrangements? So Hard to Forget is very much a sentimental journey for Pizzarelli, and the lineup here, which includes violinists Sara Caswell and Aaron Weinstein, cellist Jesse Levy and violist Valerie Levy, are adept at sustaining the romantic mood and offering some soulful or swinging counterpoint. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself favoring the final track, Pizzarelli’s unaccompanied and imaginatively arranged performance of “Last Night When We Were Young.”

Originally published in April 2009
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