Internationally heralded guitarist/vocalist lands in Lionshead on Thursday |

Internationally heralded guitarist/vocalist lands in Lionshead on Thursday

Daily staff report
John Pizzarelli makes his inaugural stop in Vail on Thursday.
Andrew Lepley | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Jazz at Vail Square with John Pizzarelli Quartet.

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Where: The weatherproof Jazz Tent in Vail Square, Lionshead.

Cost: Preferred seats are $20 in advance, $25 day of show and general admission FREE on a first-come basis.

More information: Visit

LIONSHEAD — There was no such thing as silence growing up in the Pizzarelli household. Mind you, the sounds emanating from the place were nothing close to noise.

Coming from one of the most talented, harmonious families in jazz history, there was never any pressure for John Pizzarelli to take up music as a young boy. He was never pushed to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Bucky Pizzarelli. No. Playing music was pure fun for John and everyone else in the house. It was 100-percent natural.

“It was very easy. We had all the guitars and all the equipment,” said John, who will be making his inaugural appearance Thursday night at Jazz at Vail Square, performing with his brother Martin on bass, Larry Fuller on piano and Tony Tedesco on drums. “The house was one big instrument room. There was always some kind of music going on – my father playing, rock bands in high school … It’s always been enjoyable to me. Never like a job.”

Over the last 22 years, the enjoyment has led to more than 20 studio albums, 11 collaborative records with his father and four more with his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, with whom John co-hosts the nationally syndicated weekly radio program, “Radio Deluxe.”

When asked if guitar was also the obvious fit for John and bass the natural choice for Martin, John said he actually started out with the tenor banjo.

“The Martin question is easier,” John said, laughing. “He chose bass because we needed a bass player. We forced it on him. The guitar was around the house but it wasn’t until I found an Elton John book lying around that I picked it up and played along. That got me rolling.”

‘All hell breaks loose’

While Bucky has a very busy musical schedule of his own, John tries to team up with his father as much as possible and when the family talent converges on the holidays, the doors are virtually blown off at the Pizzarelli household.

“Whenever I can rope him into playing with me, I do,” John said of his father. “He’s so busy, it’s good we’ll play with him when we can. For the holidays we always get together. For Christmas, all hell breaks loose.”

When it comes to performing with his brother, Tedesco and Fuller – his quartet of the last seven years – John cherishes the band’s ability to instantly read one another.

“The thing I like about having the group is when you go, you can have a set booked and arrangements and you’re able to do whatever you want to do at a moment’s notice,” he said. “It’s nice to have music you’re always prepared for. It doesn’t have to be the same every night.”

Dovetailing on that vein of fresh takes, although he is known to sing and play hypnotizing renditions of jazz classics and The Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli’s latest musical focus his most recent album release – “Double Exposure” – is pop songs by the likes of Neil Young, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Seals and Crofts and The Allman Brothers, to name a few. Only John infused his own arrangements into the core of the tunes … jazzed them up, if you will.

“It started with records I made with my wife, the idea of having these songs inside of songs,” he explains. “I thought I could apply it with songs I grew up with – ‘I Feel Fine,’ ‘Diamond Girl’… I would always look for a jazz song or something to throw in so it still had jazz at its center. I felt it was really creative. It was one of my records that took the most work and I was glad with the way it turned out.”

As comfortable and energetic as he is with his quartet, some of John’s most prized performance memories to date include sharing the stage and recording with a number of musical icons.

“Some of the best moments were playing with James Taylor or Paul McCartney or Natalie Cole,” he said. “What I was really pleased with is that they were as nice personally as they are musically. There’s a reason why they’re tremendous musical stars. They are generous, beautiful people.”

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