There’s more to being a legend than just living long enough; you’ve got to have the résumé and chops to back it up. Now pushing 80, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli certainly has both. An East Coast studio, club and concert stalwart for several decades, he’s played with many of the best, including Benny Goodman and Wes Montgomery. Particularly known for his abilities as a rhythm guitarist, he’s also a fine soloist. Talent must run in the family, because he’s also the father of popular guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli. Pizzarelli and fellow guitarist Howard Alden met about 12 years ago and have played together many times. Although both participated in the soundtrack to Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown, a film about fictitious guitarist Emmett Ray, In a Mellow Tone is their first recording together. And while Alden is a generation younger, the two guitarists nevertheless have much in common, in that they share a love for the same kind of music and both play 7-string instruments, with an extended lower range that enables rich chord voicings and bass lines. Alden’s two guitar solos-Bix Beiderbecke’s almost impressionistic “In the Dark” and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” (performed on Sweet and Lowdown’s soundtrack)-demonstrate both his advanced familiarity with the fingerboard and sophisticated harmonic sense. But things really start to swing when Pizzarelli gets down to work. Tunes like “Tangerine,” “Three Little Words” and especially “Cherokee” cook along as each player alternates between soloing and comping with propulsive chords and bass lines. The disc’s closer is “Blues for Emmett,” a tasteful blend of lyricism and soulfulness that effectively sums up all of the recording’s best moments.
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