With a Song in My Heart
New Orleans may lay claim to Harry Connick Jr., but New Jersey has its own singing hunk in the form of singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli. Never one to shy away from a well-crafted concept album, Pizzarelli took his inspiration this time from the music of Richard Rodgers. With a successful revival of South Pacific currently underway at Lincoln Center and Pal Joey on the horizon, the timing couldn’t be better.
The bulk of the material chosen for this project comes from the Rodgers and Hart canon, with only three tracks chosen from Rodgers’ later partnership with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. “I Like to Recognize the Tune” is classic Pizzarelli, complete with a unison guitar and voice scat solo and passing references to “Blue Moon” and “Ornithology.” “Johnny One Note” benefits from a clever medley pairing it with Jobim’s “One Note Samba,” while the bossa-nova sound is revisited in a swaying reinvention of “Happy Talk.”
Fueled by Don Sebesky’s masterful arrangements, With a Song in My Heart swings from beginning to end, and evokes the classic Mel Tormé-Marty Paich collaborations of the 1950s. Vocally, Pizzarelli is more of a song stylist in the tradition of Matt Dennis or Bobby Troup, and while his occasionally nasal delivery can distract a listener, his retro-cool approach has an appeal that more than compensates.