Here’s how to see John Pizzarelli’s Nat King Cole tributes in Vail |

Here’s how to see John Pizzarelli’s Nat King Cole tributes in Vail

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily
John Pizzarelli will play tribute shows to Nat King Cole on Wednesday and Thursday this week as part of Vai lJazz's summer 2019 lineup.
Charles Townsend | Special to the Daily

If you go ...

What: John Pizzarelli’s 100-Year Salute to Nat “King” Cole

When: Wednesday, July 17 at 5:30 and 8 p.m., and Thursday, July 18 at 6 p.m.

Where: Wednesday at the Ludwig Terrace at the Sonnenalp Hotel and Thursday at the Vail Jazz tent in Lionshead Village

Cost: $40 for the Wednesday night shows and $25-$50 for Thursday night’s show

More information: Visit or call 970-479-6146

One of the most memorable compliments John Pizzarelli ever received was, “I don’t really like jazz music, but I like what you do.”

Upon hearing this, the guitarist stopped in his tracks for a moment, wondering how anyone could truly dislike jazz. Then he realized that some people simply don’t understand the vast musical umbrella the genre covers.

“People get so scared by the word ‘jazz,’ says Pizzarelli, who grew up surrounded by music thanks to his famous father, Bucky Pizzarelli. “Some people think you play jazz for yourself and not for people around you. Growing up, jazz for me was sometimes the same group of guys playing the same sort of music. Now you have bebop, swing, Latin jazz … there are so many different variations. It’s really exciting. It’s almost impossible that some variation wouldn’t appeal to every kind of person.”

Pizzarelli’s latest album, “For Centennial Reasons,” is his third tribute to the legendary musician whose timeless songs landed on the top of the pop charts — “pop” at the time was often synonymous with what we now think of as “jazz” — more than a hundred times during his day and remain among the most recognizable of tunes in “The Great American Songbook.”

With his intricate guitar playing and engaging singing style, there is a unique charisma Pizzarelli brings to the stage that stretches beyond the jazz genre.

“It was around 1983 that I saw Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra in the same venue,” he said. “Each guy had a different way of communicating. When Billy told stories between songs, it really added something to the whole experience and when Sinatra sang, there would always be a theatrical aspect. I don’t try to bring that to the show, necessarily, but I keep everybody at ease and let them know what’s going on. I like to keep people informed and entertained.”

Although he is famous for putting his own stamp on Nat King Cole’s classics and a slew of others from “The Great American Songbook,” Pizzarelli is known to sprinkle his style onto pop hits from the likes of Neil Young, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and The Allman Brothers.

In the end, Pizzarelli relishes knowing that something in his repertoire will strike some memorable chord with every single member of the audience.

“The best thing about any performance is introducing music to new fans and have people tell you what the music meant to them,” Pizzarelli said.

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