Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar – Challis in Wonderland – with John Pizzarelli & The Dick Lieb Strings – [TrackList follows] – Arbors Records ARCD 19435 (Distr. by Allegro) [3/13/12] *****:
(Bucky Pizzarelli: acoustic guitar & 7-string guitar; John Pizzarelli: 7-string guitar on 4 tracks; Jerry Bruno: doublebass; Dick Lieb Strings on 5 tracks; Arron Weinstein: violin, & mandolin on tr. 9; Svetland Tsoneva: violin; Olivia Koppell: viola; Jesse Levy: cello)
Bucky himself wrote the title tune for this CD, which is Track No. 4, to honor Bill Challis, who was a musical collaborator of the great Bix Beiderbecke, and transcribed the piano solos that Bucky plays here on guitar. Bucky was a member of the Vaughan Monroe orchestra in the mid-1940s and there began a relationship with Bix’s music which has continued all his long life.
Here are five Beiderbecke originals, four duets with Bucky’s vocals & guitar son John, and some other tunes which had been classic Beiderbecke recordings on 78s. Four of the great Bix original piano solos (which can well stand next to the finest short piano works of composers such as Debussy, Ravel or Faure) are: In the Dark, In a Mist, Candlelights, and Flashes. (Interesting how their titles are all connected.)
Bucky is considered to be one of the great rhythm accompanists plus a genius at improvising and soloing using chords. Django was one of the many guitarists who inspired him from the start, and some of these tracks display more of a le pompe rhythm than some of the recent CDs by modern gypsy jazz groups. The variety provided by the strings on some of the tracks is just perfect to keep the sounds interesting, and hot fiddler Aaron Weinstein is amazing, though he is many decades younger than Bucky.
This session must have been a kick for Bucky, who has played with “mostly everybody,” but this genre is his bailiwick. He plans on continuing playing for life, and says he works at it every day. He’s most proud of this three musical children: Besides big star John Pizzarelli, his other son Martin is a doublebassist, and his daughter Mary is a guitarist. (Bucky was outstanding at the Paris/1930s-oriented jazz festival in Eugene last month, especially at the Django evening.)
Challis In Wonderland
In The Dark
Singing the Blues
In A Mist
I’m Coming Virginia
This is a delightful holiday collection.