Friday, August 8, 2008

Benny Green and Bucky Pizzarelli

When: Monday, August 4 and Tuesday, August 5, 2008 • Where: DakotaWho: Benny Green, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar

Kudos to Dakota owner Lowell Pickett for conceiving these shows.
Green has a good reason to come to town (he’s seeing someone locally) and Pizzarelli was probably scheduled somewhere nearby but it was Pickett who paired them and how brilliant that turned out to be.

Monday’s sound check was the first time they played together. We know that because someone told us; it doesn’t show when the music begins. There’s an essential sweetness in the air, similar to when Kenny Werner and Toots Thielemans perform together, although those two have being doing it for years. Younger man (Kenny is in his 50s, Benny in his 40s); elder jazz statesman (Toots is 86, Bucky 82); lives devoted to music; heads full of song.

“If I Had You,” “Easy to Remember.” Laid back, gentle and pleasing. Intimate from the start. Benny jokes that when Lowell called to see if he’d be willing to play with Bucky, he said “Yes…how much will it cost me? I’m here on the installment plan.” “The More I See You.” The new Dakota neon sign, now dimmed, thank goodness, casts a lovely glow.

Wit, humor, virtuosity, ease. “Body and Soul.” A medley of Duke Ellington tunes: “Do Nothing Til You Hear from Me,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “In a Mellow Tone,” “Satin Doll.” Simpatico, respect, connection. Every note clearly articulated.

Tuesday’s set has a similar mood but different music: “Robin’s Nest,” “Tangerine.” Benny introduces Bucky as “every self-respecting guitar player’s godfather.” Tonight the Dakota is full, as it should be (as it should have been yesterday); this audience, like yesterday’s, is here to listen.

“These Foolish Things,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” a luminous and glittering “Jitterbug Waltz.” Benny’s touch on the keys and Bucky’s on the strings seem similar: precise but delicate. They play as if they and we have all the time in the world. A Harold Arlen medley: “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Last Night When We Were Young,” “A Sleeping Bee.” And to end it all, a surprisingly fast and ferocious “Limehouse Blues.”

Bucky and Benny will return in late September, this time to record a live CD. Can’t wait.

Second (Benny) and third (Bucky) photos by John Whiting.

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