John Pizzarelli started playing guitar at age six, following in the tradition of his father. After playing in pickup groups and garage bands through high school he began exploring jazz with his father as a teenager, and was able to perform with a number of great jazz musicians who would be a major influence on his work, including Benny Goodman, Les Paul, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Slam Stewart. John went out on his own after recording My Blue Heaven for Chesky Records in 1990, then toured extensively, playing clubs and concert halls, opening for such greats as Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis and Rosemary Clooney. In 1993, he was honored to open for Frank Sinatra’s international tour and then joined in the celebration for his 80th birthday at Carnegie Hall bringing down the house singing “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do” with his father accompanying him.
For Pizzarelli though, his hero and foundation was Nat “King” Cole and the comparison to his iconic trio is the highest of compliments. “I’ve always said in my concerts that Nat ‘King’ Cole is why I do what I do.” But Pizzarelli adds, “We aren’t trying to copy him. His sound was singular and inspired. I’ve always said we’re an extension, a 21st century version of what that group was.” In fact, Pizzarelli devoted his RCA albums Dear Mr. Cole and P.S. Mr. Cole to music made famous by the beloved song stylist. Pizzarelli’s catalog of albums also includes a touching cycle of torch ballads (After Hours), a collection of classic swing and bold originals (Our Love is Here to Stay), and a charming holiday disc (Let’s Share Christmas). On one of his last projects for RCA, John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles, he brought classic Beatles songs into the worlds of swing and smoky balladry.
Pizzarelli has recorded nearly 40 albums of music, either as the leader or in tandem with other performers. Among others, Pizzarelli has recorded with such luminaries as George Shearing, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Frigo and Buddy DeFranco, as well as the Boston Pops Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Many if not most of his albums have received good to excellent reviews and are very popular sellers. Additionally, he has been a guest performer on numerous records throughout his career, for a total of over 140 albums.
Pizzarelli often performs with his own jazz quartet, composed of his brother Martin Pizzarelli on double-bass, drummer Tony Tedesco and Larry Fuller on piano. He is also sometimes compared to another jazz singer, Harry Connick, Jr., for his performances of jazz standards and overall popularity.
Particularly lauded for his swinging interpretations of jazz standards, Pizzarelli also composes his own songs, some of which have achieved a sort of modern "standard" status in their own right. He is also a fan of bossa nova and released an album entirely composed of that type of music.
John Pizzarelli has cultivated a winning international career by singing classic standards and late-night ballads, and by playing sublime and inventive guitar. Using greats like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and the songs of writers like Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen as touchstones, Pizzarelli is among the prime revivalists of the great American songbook, bringing to his work the cool jazz flavor of his brilliant guitar playing.