John Pizzarelli has a lot in common with Duke Ellington. Like Duke, John is a bandleader, arranger, composer and masterful musician with an ear for lasting melodies.
Pizzarelli got his first taste of Duke Ellington's music through his father, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. John says, "Most of my early knowledge of Duke's music was from listening to my father play on gigs with various musicians, from Zoot Sims to Clark Terry to his own group, New York Swing."
The New Jersey native played alongside Bucky for several years before recording his first solo album in 1983, "I'm Hip, Please Don't Tell My Father." He followed with tribute albums to Johnny Mercer, The Beatles, Nat "King" Cole, Frank Sinatra and Richard Rodgers.
With "Rockin' In Rhythm: A Tribute To Duke Ellington," John tackles such Ellington classics as "In A Mellow Tone." John Pizzarelli sings and plays that song backed by his group, The Swing Seven.
Also featured on the album are guest vocalists Kurt Elling and Jessica Molaskey, saxophonist Harry Warren, and Bucky Pizzarelli. Four songs showcase John's quartet, which includes his brother Martin on bass.
Although Duke Ellington's death in 1974 marked the end of an era in jazz, his musical legacy continues to endure. One notable fan is singer Tony Bennett who performed Ellington's "Love Scene" at a concert at Radio City Music Hall in 1986. In attendance that evening was John Pizzarelli, who added his own interpretation on his new album, "Rockin' In Rhythm."
Of course, no Duke Ellington tribute would be complete without a rendition of his 1953 hit, "Satin Doll," as performed by the John Pizzarelli Quartet.