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John Pizzarelli: Dear Mr. Sinatra

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John Pizzarelli

Like olives and martinis, French cuffs and gold links, T-birds and blondes, John Pizzarelli and the Sinatra songbook seem an inevitable fit. Stylistically, the two Jersey boys are about as distant as Palm Springs and Palm Beach. Pizzarelli is pure, unadulterated jazz-cool genius for the hipster cognoscenti. Sinatra was all heart, blending two fingers of emotional gutsiness with a jigger of cocksure bravado. With Sinatra you always knew he’d get (or already had) the girl; with Pizzarelli you find yourself constantly hoping he will.

Where the two coalesce is in their respect-indeed, demand-for superior musical environs, extending from the range and quality of the tunes themselves to the arrangements and sidemen. It’s what shifts both Sinatra’s assured swagger and Pizzarelli’s gentlemanly swing into overdrive and what makes Dear Mr. Sinatra so much smarter and so eminently more pleasurable than the dozens of cookie-cutter tributes that have preceded it (Pizzarelli’s equally rich, intelligent nods to Nat-Dear Mr. Cole and P.S. Mr. Cole-notwithstanding).

If there’s a quibble to be had with the album’s satin-lapelled perspicacity, it’s a personal one. How swell, I figure, it would have been for Pizzarelli to pair with his sensational sidekick, wife Jessica Molaskey, on “How About You?” Hopefully, they’re saving that sort of delectable tandem treat for P.S. Mr. Sinatra.