When guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli last paid tribute to his primary musical inspiration with 1999’s P.S. Mr. Cole, he was in his late thirties, and Nat Cole probably still cast an imposing shadow as a legendary jazz master. P.S. was his second release honoring his hero, following not long after 1994’s Dear Mr. Cole, a swinging trio session with Benny Green and Christian McBride. A third Pizzarelli album celebrating the inimitable Cole might seem like overkill, but For Centennial Reasons (oy, that pun) has more to do with Pizzarelli’s age than Cole’s. At 58, he’s lived a dozen years longer than the pop star, who died of lung cancer in 1965 just shy of his 46th birthday.
Pizzarelli’s no less reverent here than on the previous albums, but instead of approaching the elder master with “Mr. Cole” formality, he imbues the 12 standards (and two originals) with a lived-in ease and familiarity that make it one of his more satisfying sessions. Featuring his finely calibrated trio with bassist Mike Karn and pianist Konrad Paszkudzki, the album seamlessly ranges across a smart array of material with only three repeats from the earlier albums (the relaxed opener “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” the quietly besotted “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and the jivey closer “Route 66”).