Jazz CD Reviews

The Pizzarelli Boys – Desert Island Dreamers – Arbors Jazz

The first family of jazz guitar tackles a host of musical standards, slowly.

Published on December 30, 2010

The Pizzarelli Boys – Desert Island Dreamers – Arbors Jazz

The Pizzarelli Boys – Desert Island Dreamers – Arbors Jazz ARCD 19412, 103:42 [Distr. by Allegro] ***:

According to the liner notes of “Desert Island Dreamers,” the idea for this album can be credited to the Pizzarelli clan’s executive producer, Paul Hanly. Most people are familiar with the idea of coming up with a list of the things you couldn’t live without and would want to bring along if you found yourself washed up on a desert island. So this is the list of songs that Hanly couldn’t live without, performed by a first-class group of jazz musicians. But it’s kind of an odd eclectic list of tunes.

Before I get any further, let me say that everyone here is playing their best and turning in one great performance after another. Truthfully, I’m a big fan of the Pizzarellis, and even on songs that might seem incapable of invention and originality at this point in time, like “Over the Rainbow” and “Danny Boy,” they manage to bring a little something new to the discussion. They might not be reinventing the songs, but they do create a sense of freshness with their improvisations. And for the record, John Pizzarelli is on electric guitar, Bucky Pizzarelli is on acoustic guitar, and Martin Pizzarelli is on bass. Especially good—besides the Pizzarellis—are Aaron Weinstein on violin and Larry Fuller on piano. Both perform at the highest level and every note, phrase, and line from them are a welcome addition.

My main quibbles with the “Desert Island Dreamers” are the chosen tempos (all seem sluggish bordering on catatonic) and the selection of the tunes. Most fit okay with each other, but then there are the odd choices like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (which might the most successful of these interpretations) and the above mentioned and hoary old classic, “Danny Boy.” Combine those tunes with numbers like “By Myself,” “Moon River,” and “Greensleeves” and, at least intellectually, I thought my head was going to explode. But then everything is delivered in the same monotonous dragging tempo and a consistency is achieved that does tie everything together, but at what cost? Any variety in the material (even odd as it is) is dampened by the oppressively slow tempos. Because I usually like the CDs of John Pizzarelli and friends so much, perhaps Paul Hanly should get the blame, instead of the credit, for this one.

TrackList: By Myself; A Man Alone; Walk Away; Over the Rainbow; Emily; Waiting for the Phantom; All the Way Home/Moon River; Cycles; Greensleeves; Stairway to Heaven; Danny Boy

- Hermon Joyner




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