A dream marriage, as this handsome couple put it, of 52nd Street and 42nd Street, the John Pizzarelli-Jessica Molaskey show is an invigorating blend of Broadway, pop tunes and vintage jazz. Inventive 80-minute show is dominated by pairings — she sings one tune while he sings and strums another — with an enchanting band swinging underneath them; it peaks — at breathtaking speed — when they alternate between Jon Hendricks’ “Cloudburst” (Pizzarelli) and Stephen Sondheim’s “Getting Married Today” (McCloskey).
A year ago, guitarist-singer Pizzarelli released a tribute to Frank Sinatra (“Dear Mr. Sinatra” on Telarc) and Chairman of the Board stories continue to accompany parts of the repertoire; as Sinatra did, Pizzarelli always identified the songwriters. Show opener segues from Molaskey’s chipper reading of “If I Were a Bell” to his modern-cool rendition of “Ring-a-Ding Ding”; a similar timbre permeates “Witchcraft,” which was preceded by a anecdote about Sinatra reviewing sheet music in Cy Coleman’s office; and “It’s Sunday” is done the way Frank did it, with a just a guitar accompaniment. (It is the only song Sinatra recorded that way).
As sweetly as those numbers are drawn out, the magic of this booking rests in the musical and comical give-and-take between the two singers. The spotlight in other Pizzarelli gigs has been given over to McCloskey, but with her spot thoroughly integrated, she has taken his lead and learned to reduce the intensity in much of her delivery. (She has had a propensity for over-delivering a song and Wednesday she went bit broad on Paul Simon’s “Heart and Bones”).
Their “Baby” medley “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” and “Baby All the Time,” which they have done for years, has not only gained sharpness, it feels more like a piece in a set than an oddity. Her delicate yet assured singing of Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” set to Jobim’s “Waters of March,” which he proffers in small bits, is out-of-left-field genius.
Add to that, Pizzarelli’s tender take on another Sondheim tune, “Sorry Grateful,” also from “Company,” and suddenly Broadway and Swing Street are one and the same. Ace band featuring the piano of Larry Fuller, suave drumming of Tony Tedesco and brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass was assured throughout the night.