John Pizzarelli, one of the most celebrated performers bringing popular standards to a new generation, pays homage to Frank Sinatra with the release of Dear Mr. Sinatra. Early in his career, Pizzarelli opened for Sinatra on tour. His father, the jazz guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, played on many of Sinatra's seminal recordings. Focusing on songs that were specifically written for 'Ol' Blue Eyes' and also featuring The Clayton- Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Dear Mr. Sinatra is in many ways the most personal of all the Sinatra tributes available. Dear Mr. Sinatra, follows Pizzarelli's highly-acclaimed tributes to Nat King Cole (Dear Mr. Cole and P.S. Mr. Cole), Antonio Carlos Jobim (Bossa Nova) and The Beatles (John Pizzarelli Meets The Beatles).
With his eternally boyish tenor and cheery romantic outlook, John Pizzarelli is a stylistic world apart from Frank Sinatra, he of the manly baritone and dark sensual undercurrents. But like his Italian-American forebear, he's a consummate swinger, and he knows how to make a lyric his own. Comprised mostly of tunes written for the Chairman, Dear Mr. Sinatra
is a musical fan letter without the usual schmaltz or reverence. An actively intelligent singer and guitarist, Pizzarelli reshapes the material to fit his personality, whether quietly enunciating "You Make Me Feel So Young," scatting over a brief guitar solo on "How About You?," or making the emotions sneak up on you on a medley of "I See Your Face Before Me" and "In the Wee Small Hours (of the Morning)." He's equally at home with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra as he is with his working combo, largely because in John Clayton, he has a skilled arranger who is equally open to recasting the songs--dig the jagged rhythms, hesitation effects, and burnished tones on "I've Got You Under My Skin." Even as he asserts his own style, Pizzarelli subtly conveys his affection for Sinatra in his phrasing. The album also boasts an agreeable Frank-like running time of 39 minutes. --Lloyd Sachs