Bucky Pizzarelli, a member of the New Jersey Hall of Fame and a jazz guitar giant who played with most of the greats in his decades-long career, has died at age 94. He had been diagnosed with cornonavirus, but the exact cause of death has not been determined, his daughter said.
Pizzarelli had a smooth style that was in demand for sessions and performances. He performed at the White House for Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, appeared with Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” band, and worked with Frank Sinatra, Les Paul, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole and many others. .
His seassion work included Ray Charles’s Georgia on My Mind to Janis Ian’s At Seventeen and Bryan Hyland’s Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Paul McCartney used him on his 2012 standards album, Kisses on the Bottom.
Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Pizzarelli picked up the name Bucky from his father. He served in World War II and then became a professional musician. His son, John Pizzarelli Jr., also became a well-known guitarist and singer, and another son, Martin, is a professional bassist who often worked with his father and brother.
John Pizzarelli Jr. posted a tribute on Facebook. “He was a wonderful dad. He was a decent bocce player, a New York football Giants fan, and for some reason, liked the Yankees. But, he was music first and foremost and it showed in his artistry. He taught himself classical guitar! Played the literature, like a jazz guitarist, which is the only way I can hear it now. I’ll add more later but I wanted to raise my glass to this amazing man. If you want to do him a favor, send some money to the Jazz Foundation … or call Joe Petrucelli there at 212-245-3999, ext. 10.”
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