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John Pizzarelli Celebrates Richard Rodgers on New CD

For a follow-up to his 2006 tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dear Mr. Sinatra, John Pizzarelli turns his attention to another prolific American musician, composer Richard Rodgers. With A Song In My Heart, due Tuesday, Aug. 19 (Telarc), features 12 of Pizzarelli’s favorite songs from the Rodgers canon, one that spans more than 900 songs and 40 musicals.

The set focuses mostly on Rodgers’ work with lyrical partner Lorenz Hart (nine songs), while the other three are Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II collaborations.

Pizzarelli, who’s famous for his covers of standards and jazz re-workings of pop tunes, chose to focus on Rodgers because he’s “never fully explored the ‘upper tier’ of the Great American Songbook,” as he put it in the album’s liner notes.

“A lot of his musicals are being revived right now,” Pizzarelli said of Rodgers in a press release. “There’s a lot of Rodgers in the air. So it was just a matter of picking songs that I liked-things that would be interesting and make a nice package.”

Backing Pizzarelli, who handles vocals and guitar, is a seven-piece band featuring Larry Fuller on piano, Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Tony Tedesco on drums and a horn section comprised of John Mosca, Andy Fusco, Kenny Berger and Tony Kadleck. Cesar Carmago Mariano makes an appearance playing piano on “Happy Talk.” But Pizzarelli’s biggest special guest is his father, Bucky, who arranged “It’s Easy To Remember.”

“Benny Goodman used to play this when my father and I opened for him when I was a kid,” Pizzarelli said in the release. “Benny loved this song. My father has just recently started playing it again in his show, so that’s why it’s on this record.”

Carmango’s Latin-flavored piano turns “Happy Talk,” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, into a bossa nova of sorts.

Perhaps the most famous cover on the album is Babes in Arms’‘ “The Lady Is A Tramp,” which swings thanks to Pizzarelli’s lead guitar work, a staple of the album.

“I wanted it to be sort of along the lines of the kinds of records Marty Paich and Mel Torme used to make,” Pizzarelli said in the release. “No real rhythm guitar to speak of, not a lot of piano. The horns sort of lead the way over the bass and drums. That way, the piano and guitar are more like the soloists.”

Pizzarelli and Robert Friedrich produced the album, which was recorded during two days in New York. The day after the album’s release, Aug. 20, Pizzarelli will launch a tour to promote the record-the first stop is in Racine, Wisc.

The album’s track list is as follows:

1. With A Song in My Heart

2. This Can’t Be Love

3. I Like to Recognize the Tune

4. It’s Easy to Remember

5. Johnny One Note

6. Nobody’s Heart

7. Happy Talk

8. Mountain Greenery

9. I Have Dreamed

10. The Lady is a Tramp

11. She Was Too Good To Me

12. You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught

Tour dates are as follows:

8-20-08 Racine, WI Racine Zoo

8-21-08 Minneapolis, MN Dakota Jazz Club

8-23-08 La Jolla, CA Salk Institute

08-27-08 Los Angeles, CA Catalina Bar and Grill

10-5-08 Hackensack, NJ Street Fair

11-19-08 Mississauga, ON Living Arts Centre

11-22-08 Binghamton, NY Forum Theatre

Originally Published