Exclusive: John Pizzarelli's New Album Mashes Beatles, Tom Waits and James Taylor With Jazz Classics
Exclusive: John Pizzarelli's New Album Mashes Beatles, Tom Waits and James Taylor With Jazz Classics

Having explored the music of his parents; generation in recent albums, jazz guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli is turning to his older sisters' record collection for his next album. And he's still thinking about the jazz his father Bucky Pizzarelli exposed him to at a young age.

Pizzarelli's album, his tenth for Telarc and his 25th overall, is a bit of a mash-up, an exercise of running pop and rock songs through a jazz filter. Telarc will release the album, titled "Double Exposure," in Europe in March to coincide with his tour of France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany; the album has a May release penciled in the U.S.

"Double Exposure" began with Pizzarelli using jazz standards as the musical bed for a pop song. Lennon & McCartney's "I Feel Fine" was placed over Lee Morgan's hard-bop classic "The Sidewinder;" the early Tom Waits' ballad "Drunk on the Moon" was married to Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life"; and James Taylor's swinging blues "Traffic Jam" went bumper to bumper with Horace Silver's version of Joe Henderson's "The Kicker."

Those three tracks made the album as Pizzarelli continued to experiment. Donald Fagen's "Walk Between the Raindrops" with Thad Jones' "Tiptoe"; the Allman Brothers Band's grinding instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" bumping with Wes Montgomery's funky "Four on Six."

"Then we realized everything would be double publishing," Pizzarelli tells Billboard.biz, noting the prohibitive expense of doing an entire album of mash-ups. "We figured we could do an homage to some of the tunes. It was good to do all of this live to see what works."

The only one that did not come together they planned was the Lieber & Stoller-penned hit for Dion, "Ruby Baby," partnered with the Elvis Presley hit "Alright, OK, You Win." "My father was on the Dion record so it would have been a great collision of two record collections," he notes.

Don Sebesky arranged the three mash-ups and two other songs on the new album, which features Pizzarelli and his regular band pianist Larry Fuller, Martin Pizzarelli on upright bass and drummer Tony Tedesco. Larry Goldings played organ on a few tracks.

Pizzarelli recently concluded a run at the Café Carlyle where he and his wife Jessica Molaskey experimented with the mash-ups in their show "When Worlds Collide." They paired the Beatles with Woody Herman, Joni Mitchell with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" with the 100-year-old "Shine On, Harvest Moon."

Elements of the Carlyle show will be in their current tour, which includes a Christmas concert at L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall on Dec. 20 and a February-March run at New York's Birdland. Part of the show's banter - and listening to Pizzarelli and Molaskey speak is half the reason to see them live - concerned Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," which borrowed Horace Silver's "A Song For My Father" as a motif.

"The fan base is getting younger and younger and while plenty of people still show up to hear Gershwin, they're more likely to remember 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number' than 'I Won't Dance'," Pizzarelli notes. "Jessica pointed out when we were doing (Joni Mitchell's) 'Free Man in Paris' the guy in the verse is you and the guitar. We have the opportunity to put a theatrical spin on the song, forgetting about Joni the performer and think just about Joni the songwriter.

"For years I've made lists of songs I loved growing up that I wanted to find a way to record," he says, adding that one project or another - Duke Ellington and Richard Rodgers tributes are recent examples - has derailed those plans. "It has always worked out well. This feels like the right time to experiment."