John Pizzarelli – Midnight McCartney (2015)

John Pizzarelli - Midnight McCartney (2015)
Artist: John Pizzarelli
Album: Midnight McCartney
Genre: Vocal Jazz, Swing, Jazz Pop
Origin: USA
Released: 2015
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps

Tracklist:
01. Silly Love Songs (3:47)
02. My Love (4:21)
03. Heart Of The Country (3:08)
04. Coming Up (3:52)
05. No More Lonely Nights (5:03)
06. Warm And Beautiful (3:29)
07. Hi, Hi, Hi (3:47)
08. Junk (3:38)
09. My Valentine (3:35)
10. Let ‘em In (2:47)
11. Some People Never Know (3:19)
12. Maybe I’m Amazed (3:55)
13. Wonderful Christmastime (4:11)

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The same week that the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” hit No. 1 in Billboard in April 1964, Ella Fitzgerald recorded her version. Lennon and McCartney compositions have remained a vital part of the vocal-jazz repertoire ever since. But you’d be hard pressed to name many, if any, jazz versions of post-Beatles McCartney tunes. Sir Paul himself decided it was time to rectify that. McCartney called up John Pizzarelli, whom he met during the 2010 sessions for Kisses on the Bottom, the rock icon’s estimable collection of mostly standards, and not only suggested the idea but even provided the title. Pizzarelli, who had crafted an album-length Beatles’ tribute back in 1996, jumped at the invitation.

While McCartney’s solo work will likely never reach the iconic status of his collaborations with Lennon, his songbook is not only richly multihued but prime for reinterpretation, as Pizzarelli ably demonstrates. With wife Jessica Molaskey as co-producer (she also provides vocal backup) and brother Martin on bass, he rounds out the core rhythm section with pianists Larry Goldings and sharp up-and-comer Konrad Paszkudzki.

Though the disc’s 13 tracks include cashmere readings of “Silly Love Songs,” “My Love,” “No More Lonely Nights,” “Warm and Beautiful,” “Some People Never Know” and “Junk” (featuring John’s father, Bucky Pizzarelli, on rhythm guitar, and saxophonist Harry Allen), the set’s not all midnight lace. Indeed, lovely as everything wrapped in Pizzarelli’s trademark silken lilt is, the more adventurous selections are more interesting. Among them: a spirited “Heart of the Country”; a breezy, midtempo “Coming Up,” featuring an excellent vocal pairing with Michael McDonald; a bluesy, Wes-worthy, horns-embellished instrumental take on “Hi, Hi, Hi”; a dazzling “Let ‘Em In” driven by Martin’s Ray Brown-inspired bass figure; and, as a bonus, a cleverly samba-ized “Wonderful Christmastime.”
By Christopher Loudon


John Pizzarelli lays it all out in the title of his 2015 album: this tribute to Paul McCartney is designed for play in the smoky late-night hours, when everything turns sweet and mellow. Furthermore, this is a tribute to McCartney, not the Beatles. There isn’t a Fab song to be found here, as Pizzarelli focuses entirely on Paul’s solo work (for these intents and purposes, this includes Wings records), concentrating on the ’70s but also sliding McCartney’s Great American Songbook wannabe “My Valentine” into the mix. Pizzarelli digs up a few other obscurities — the early Wings song “Some People Never Know,” the Speed of Sound deep cut “Warm and Beautiful” — and he also plays around with expectations, making “Let ‘Em In” swing like mad and relaxing “Hi Hi Hi” so it doesn’t rock, it grooves. He also invites Michael McDonald to sing on “Coming Up,” which swaggers like Sinatra in Vegas, but for as delightful as that is, the key to the record’s success is Pizzarelli himself, who delivers upon the laid-back promise of the title but is savvier than he needed to be, which is why Midnight McCartney satisfies.
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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