Artist: John Pizzarelli
Album: Midnight McCartney
Label: Concord Records
Release Date: 09/11/2015
Being asked by Sir Paul McCartney to reimagine and rerecord his songs isn’t an easy task, even after having collaborated countless times before on both recordings and performances. But that’s the task that John Pizzarelli was given, and he approaches these tunes with delicacy and warmth, writing smooth jazz arrangements for songs like “Silly Love Songs,” “My Valentine” and “Hi Hi Hi” with the help of pianist Larry Goldings and wife, Jessica Molaskey.
Pizzarelli performs these songs as guitarist and vocalist, retaining McCartney’s crooning pop vocal tone. His voice is reminiscent of Chet Baker’s vocal quality, but shines with less heartbreak.
One aspect that Pizzarelli successfully captures is the authenticity and purity in McCartney’s songs. His rendition of “Silly Love Songs” and “Junk” are ‘sentimental jamboree[s],’ gently balancing and shifting between guitar and vocal melodies. Pizzarelli performs the apologetic tone in “Some People Never Know” with tranquility, and demonstrates his vocal range and control in the challenging, “No More Lonely Nights,” the standout track of the album; he handles the song with grace and uplifting brilliance. It’s a brilliant song choice from an intimidatingly large discography.
The arrangements of the tracks are also imaginative, transforming “My Valentine” into a bossanova track, and adding Michael McDonald’s bluesy vocals in “Coming Up” to create a saucy swing tune. Even with these jazz renditions, Pizzarelli keeps the elements which makes these songs signature McCartney’s songs, for example in “Maybe I’m Amazed,” the singing is kept in the style of McCartney and is perfectly delivered. The album succeeds as a fresh body of work, bringing new energy into old songs.
– Jason Kwan