Good news on the John Pizzarelli front; his act has become more ingratiating than ever, tighter in musicianship, and even more inclusive in a light-hearted way.
As in previous gigs, the boyish-looking singer/guitarist continues to work in his favorite retro King Cole Trio format — guitar, piano and upright bass. It should then come as no surprise that Pizzarelli’s brand-new Novus/RCA album, “Dear Mr. Cole,” pays effusive homage to Nat Cole’s repertoire, even to the point of mimicking a few of Cole’s arrangements.
What’s encouraging is that Pizzarelli isn’t frozen into a sound and style that had its heyday half a century ago. He spreads the net just a little wider now, taking into account the boomers and younger people in the audience. Indeed the highlight of the night was the comic romp “I Like Jersey Best,” which combined a catalog of the sights of the Garden State with some really sharp parodies of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Paul Simon.
Still, the essence of the act remains a fond, sometimes corny, always spiffy excursion back to the days of Tin Pan Alley — even in Pizzarelli’s own tunes. Pizzarelli’s voice is shedding some of the callowness that marred his debut Novus album three years ago, and he has a stage presence and rapport with his band and audience that make his CDs seem like incomplete sketches.