John Pizzarelli: Kisses in the Rain

Pizzarelli is the son of tasty guitarist Bucky and his professed interest is in building on the sound of the old Nat Cole Trio, so I expected Kisses in the Rain to be a solid, low-key, mainstream outing. But there’s a difference between mainstream jazz and mainstream pop. The fact that the cover is graced with a quote from Rosemary Clooney should tell you which side of that line this record is on. I imagine that fans of singers like Clooney will like Pizzarelli; he has a warm voice, excellent pitch, good control and range. And there are similarities to the Cole Trio in terms of understated dynamics. But even the smoothest of Cole’s early vocals are imbued with a subtle tension that is totally lacking here. The guitar solos are very well executed, without a note or nuance out of place, but they also lack tension, ergo, according to accepted ideas about jazz improvisation, there’s never any release. Whether the ingredients are well-known standards like “I’m in the Mood for Love,” or new songs like the engaging “A Lifetime or Two” by Jessica Mollusk, the result is always a smoothie. I can’t argue with anyone this adept at doing what he is doing, but my own taste runs to a riskier, less polished approach.