Program : 
The World on Seven Strings: Jazz Guitar Master Bucky Pizzarelli

Bucky Pizzarelli. Photo courtesy Mayo Center for Performing Arts.

For more than half a century jazz guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli has been the 'number one jazz guitarist of choice' for thousands of New York studio sessions, movie soundtracks and live concert performances. He's been a staff musician at ABC and at NBC, where he was a member of The Tonight Show band. He's toured with Benny Goodman and Stéphane Grappelli, he's recorded with jazz artists from Doc Cheatham to Duke Ellington and with legendary vocalists Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughn.


This week Riverwalk Jazz presents Bucky Pizzarelli on stage at The Landing with his son, the Grammy award-winning singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli in The World on Seven Strings, a program devoted to the life and music of the senior Pizzarelli. The father and son duo share stories about their lives in music and offer outstanding guitar duets.


George Van Eps & Ray Nobel, 1938. Photo courtesy classicjazzguitar.

Both Bucky and John Pizzarelli use the 7-string guitar pioneered by George Van Eps, the so-called 'underground guru of guitar.' Van Eps wrote a definitive text on guitar playing and introduced the first distortion-free Epiphone guitar amp while playing in the Ray Noble band. The seventh string on their guitars is tuned to low A, giving the guitar a bottom register and expanded 'chord voicing' possibilities. Van Eps called his 7-string guitar a 'lap piano.'


Bucky Pizzarelli was born in 1926 in Paterson, New Jersey where a large community of Italian-Americans had settled around the town's textile industries. Bucky's parents ran a grocery store on Union Avenue. His mother Amelia once told his biographer that "Bucky was our delivery boy. He'd run around delivering eggs, and then come back to the store to play his guitar. He was always playing guitar."


Carl Kress. Photo courtesy Red Hot Jazz Archive.

In his long career Pizzarelli has worked to preserve pre-World War II classic jazz guitar styles through his many live performances and through duo recordings with great guitarists of that era, including George Van Eps, Carl Kress and George Barnes. Pizzarelli was chosen by jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli to fill the void in his trio left by the great Django Reinhardt.


Eddie Lang, 1932. Photo courtesy Britannica.

On this broadcast Bucky Pizzarelli offers his solo guitar interpretation of Bix Beiderbecke's composition “Flashes," and performances of guitar music by Eddie Lang, “April Kisses” and Carl Kress, “Stage Fright,” as well as standards by Duke Ellington, Ray Noble and Fats Waller.


Photo credit for home page teaser image: Bucky & John Pizzarelli.  Photo by David Holt.