John Pizzarelli and Rick Haydon: Just Friends – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

Do the names John Pizzarelli or Rick Haydon ring any bells? Well the first one should, given that John is the son of legendary Jazz Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and an extremely popular Jazz Guitarist/Vocalist in his own right. How about Rick Haydon? Well, regrettably I had not heard of Rick until I received the CD Just Friends in the mail. But boy am I glad I did.

He’s a wonderful player and with the release of Just Friends on the Mel Bay Records label, Rick is getting the kind of attention warranted a tremendously talented musician and much deserved I might add. The CD is full of fabulous guitar playing from both John and Rick as they swing their way through eleven standards that stand right up there alongside such famous Jazz Guitar duos as Joe Pass and Herb Ellis, Carl Kress and Dick McDonough or George Barnes, take your pick, and John Pisano and Billy Bean to name but a few.

From the first tune, “Chasin’ The Blues” to the last “Just Friend’s”, John and Rick get to stretch out in a set of tunes that feature “old-school” style swing, four to the bar rhythm’s, fleet fingered improvisations, and more. One of the tunes that stands out a little more than the others is the beautiful Sergio Mihanovich tune “Sometime Ago” in ¾. The first solo is played warmly by either John or Rick* with the second solo played in artificial harmonics ala Tal Farlow by John. It’s just a gorgeous tune reminiscent of Bill Evan’s “Waltz For Debbie” and both guitarists do it proud.

Another beautiful tune is the Jerome Kern standard “Look for The Silver Lining”. John takes this one on by himself with great support by brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass and drummer Tony Tedesco. At two minutes and five seconds it is the shortest tune on the CD giving John just enough time to starting the song with a wonderful chordal intro utilizing the low seventh string on his Moll Custom Archtop before heading into a mid-tempo swing in a George Van Eps style reading of the melody**. Nicely done John!

Rick also gets a lovely solo spot with Martin and Tony on the Willard Robison tune “Old Folks” playing some lovely chord voicings in a Johnny Smith style arrangement. From what I hear, Rick can definitely hold his own amongst his peers and is definitely worth checking out.

There are of course some cookers on this CD as well for those seeking more thrust for their money. “Chasin’ The Blues”, “Perdido”, “Just Friend’s” and “Halley’s Comet”, with the Pizzarelli locomotion style octave play, all feature burning lines as each Guitarist gets a chance to show off their considerable chops, making for some fun, good-natured competition.

The mid-tempo tunes, “Two Funky People”, “Samba De Orfeu”, “It’s A Wonderful World” and the Tony Mottola classic “Tony’s Tune”, which Ross Gentile mentions as an “almost note-for-note arrangement” of Tony’s version, are equally well played featuring some tasty playing from all concerned.

As mentioned briefly, Martin Pizzarelli and Tony Tedesco take care of the rhythm section chores quite admirably, and while preferring to mostly accompany Rick and John, they do get a chance to shine a little on a few tunes making Just Friends that much more enjoyable.

It is immediately apparent from the first note that these two players are masters of this style of Jazz Guitar and from the smiles on the front and back of the CD cover and of course the music played, John and Rick must have had a blast getting together for this session. Two friends, two guitars and a passion for great Jazz. It just doesn’t get better than that folks! I would highly recommend this CD for any Jazz Guitar player, student or enthusiast and I look forward to hearing more from Rick and John as a duo as well as individual artists.

There is no delineation of who played what except for whatever WSIE-FM 88.7 radio host Ross Gentile has mentioned in his liner notes.

Thanks again to Ross gentile for the reference.

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