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Bucky Pizzarelli: Flashes

Hearing seven-string guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli play solo, as he does on Flashes (Arbors), is as rare an occurrence as a guitarist who knows what to do with that extra low string as well as Pizzarelli does. The seventh string on the Benedetto archtop Pizzarelli plays during this set of American Songbook ballads never booms, just as the highs notes never sound too bright. The guitar’s glowing tone comes in a tightly contained space that complements Pizzarelli’s control. Restrained-but in a good way-Pizzarelli pulls fresh melodies out of songs like Harold Arlen’s “Sleepin’ Bee,” where he plays lines simultaneously with imaginative chord inversions. He showcases an impeccable sense of time on “Pennies From Heaven” and lets pretty, curly-cue licks blossom in a medley that combines Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” with Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.” As the disc closes Pizzarelli reveals a classical prowess and a command of the six-string nylon on pieces by Joaquin Turina and Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco. It’s enchanting music, but about half of Flashes’ 39 tracks aren’t songs but tracks of Pizzarelli relating anecdotes or explaining a tune’s history. Unfortunately, he’s not the storyteller with words that he is with chords. I’d have rather had these short reminiscences printed alongside Marty Grosz’s largely biographical liner notes, but programming a CD player around all the talk to hear Pizzarelli play by himself is worth the trouble.

Originally Published