John Pizzarelli – Sinatra & Jobim @ 50

Singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli celebrates Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim and the 50th anniversary of their joint collaboration which ended up on the 1967 LP “Frances Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim”. Thankfully, John left out the obvious “Girl From Ipanema” (except for a tiny little snippet which you’ll read about later), but starts out with “Baubles, Bangles & Beads” in a cool and relaxed fashion. Daniel Jobim, grandson of Antonio, is special guest on the album. Himself a singer, composer, and pianist, he takes over “Agua De Beber” before John sets in with a George Benson-like guitar solo.

Daniel is back again in the second part of one of three medleys on the album –  a treat which John has given us over his past records to surprisingly convincing effect. “Quiet Nights”, which segued from “Meditation”, stays true to the original and on “Dindi”, one of my favorite Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions, both excel in their own inimitable way with John playing the refined one and Daniel the more adventurous and elemental.

On “I Concentrate On You/Wave”, the breezy Brazilian touch is underscored by a cool and sexy sax solo from Harry Allen and the piano work of Helio Alves on the record is consummate and pretty accomplished at all times. Harry Allen, who more than once reminded me of Stan Getz on his own recordings (Stan Getz of course having played on Antonio’s records too), is back with his golden touch on the Michael Franks classic “Antonio’s Song”, luckily included here and giving the album a hip touch, too. Wonderful percussion work by Duduka DaFonseca and “Ipanema” backing vocals (very sweet and full of relish) courtesy of Jessica Molaskey, her husband John Pizzarelli and their daughter Madeleine Pizzarelli.

The backing vocals return more to the front on “Two Kites”, masterly executed by Daniel and at times actually sounding a tiny little bit like his grandfather, the way he prononunces and phrases and the way he speaks instead of sings the lyric – like a good storyteller. “She’s So Sensitive” is a Pizzarelli/Molaskey composition and borrows from “How Insensitive” for a few bars in the beginning. One of two original songs on the album, once again successfully diverting the album away from merely being another tribute record, the tune is pretty delicate and luminous. Daniel Jobim is back on “Bonita”, with Harry Allen throwing little arrows at him because he sometimes sounds a bit under, off or beyond the key. Pretty impressive and sympathetic though.

“If You Never Come To Me” and “Change Partners”, both tracks recorded on the original 1967 album, are put together here for the third juxtaposition. Daniel is responsible for the former and John taking over the Irving Berlin classic. This one more or less burbles along nicely, but somehow unexcitingly except for the wonderful piano work of Helio Alves. The original “Canto Casual” brings this satisfying album to an end, celebrating the music of one of Brazil’s most important composers, with a joyful, life-affirming statement which is both simple and deep.

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