Swing that seventh string
by Bob Margolis
October 08, 2009 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Who is this man? He has lifted the Big Bands of Benny Goodman and the Tonight Show with his thumping acoustic rhythm guitar. He has made something musical out of whatever was thrown his way in thousands of studio sessions, from Doublemint Gum commercials to Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind." He has worked in small groups with saxophonist Zoot Sims, violinist Stephane Grappelli and pianist Gene Harris, and he has played solo, offering peerless jazz chord-melody work on the seven-string guitar. He is 83.

Bucky Pizzarelli, the father of seven-string guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli, is the answer. He plays this Friday and Saturday, October 9 and 10 at the Ritz Theater in Newburgh as part of the guitar series presented in honor of the late Gardiner luthier Tom Humphrey. Joining the great Bucky will be Ed Loeb, who has mastered the difficult art of playing the same instrument as the leader. How does one comp and not get in the way? How to create tension but not clutter? It's a master class for taste.

These days, Pizzarelli is probably best-known as a master of the seven-string electric guitar. The guitar was invented by George Van Eps, who added a low A underneath the standard guitar's low E. The A allowed for deep, resonant basslines that undergirded chord-melody solos to create an almost pianistic sound. Pizzarelli bought his seven-string in 1969, when Van Eps came to New York to demonstrate the model manufactured by Gretsch. He learned to play it on the job.

Broadly stated, Pizzarelli hews to the style of the Swing Era - a style largely supplanted by the bebop of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and other modern jazz musicians. In order to express their melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ideas, many modern jazz players feel compelled to eschew the Great American Songbook in favor of their own compositions.

The concerts will be held in the Ritz Theater lobby at 107 Broadway in Newburgh, and tickets can be purchased through, by calling (866) 468-7619 or through the Ritz box office (cash or check only) by calling (845) 784-1199. All tickets are $25, general admission, and include a reception with the musicians immediately following the concert. Seating is limited.

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