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Hamptons Life

Jul 12, 2018 2:21 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

John Pizzarelli To Bring Jazz Back To Westhampton Beach

The John Pizzarelli Trio and Catherine Russell will bring the smooth sounds of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday back to the WHBPAC on Sunday, July 15. COURTESY WHBPAC
Jul 12, 2018 4:09 PM

Jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli will return to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center yet again for the venue’s 20th anniversary season, this time featuring jazz singer Catherine Russell in a show called “Billie & Blue Eyes.”

Mr. Pizzarelli said he is ecstatic to return to WHBPAC, a theater where he has been a repeat performer since his first concert there in 2007. “I’m always happy to play there,” he said. “It’s really a top-notch venue.”

He has been collaborating with Ms. Russell for about two years on “Billie & Blue Eyes,” a show highlighting the songs of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. The partnership began after she was a guest on “Radio Deluxe,” the radio show Mr. Pizzarelli hosts with his wife, Jessica Molaskey.

The couple was knocked out by Ms. Russell, Mr. Pizzarelli said, and he knew he wanted to work with her. “We’re always looking for interesting little duet things to do out on the road. I said if Catherine and I could work together I’d love that, so here we are.”

Mr. Pizzarelli said the match is perfect, not only because of his and Ms. Russell’s mutual admiration, but because the crooning, smooth jazz of Holiday and Sinatra complement each other so well.

He begins the show with some of his own Sinatra covers and she comes in about half way through to perform Holiday songs. They throw some duets into the mix as well. “Even just from my end, to accompany her is a joy,” Mr. Pizzarelli said.

“Musically, it’s good to have someone you admire, and I’m so in awe of Catherine’s talent that it is so much fun to be a guitar player for her,” he said.

In doing collaborations, Mr. Pizzarelli said he is most enthusiastic about musicians with whom he can have fun playing both on and off stage. Collaborations are special to him because they give his performances something different each time and allow him to return to the same venues with something new.

“When people say, ‘He was just here last year!’ others go, ‘Yeah, but now he’s working with Catherine Russell,’” he laughed.

Mr. Pizzarelli often works with other musicians on albums and in live performance—he enjoys the variety and uniqueness brought about by the coming together of artists.

His most recent album, “Sinatra and Jobim @ 50,” celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Grammy-nominated bossa nova album by Sinatra and Brazilian composer and singer Antônio Carlos Jobim. It lost Album of the Year to none other than the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Mr. Pizzarelli thought it important to record music from such a seminal time, even collaborating on the album with Daniel Jobim, grandson of Jobim himself.

He will perform a few songs from that recent record, though he does like to pick and choose his songs in the moment. He said that he goes in with an idea of a setlist, but he ultimately decides which songs he’ll play as he goes along.

Mr. Pizzarelli likely won’t be playing any originals, choosing to focus on Sinatra and Holiday. “Nobody ever even asks me about my originals!” he joked.

He will play guitar alongside bassist Mike Karn and pianist Konrad Paszkudzki.

Mr. Pizzarelli is particularly excited to be back in the Hamptons in the summer months. “It’s nice to be in the area in July,” he laughed.

The John Pizzarelli Trio with Catherine Russell will play at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Sunday, July 15, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $50, $60 and $70 and can be purchased at whbpac.org or by calling 631-288-1500.

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