Masterful jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli dies at age 94

Bucky Pizzarelli, the highly respected guitarist who became a mainstay of the New York jazz scene in the ’70s, died on Wednesday in New Jersey. He was 94.

Pizzarelli’s son and frequent collaborator John Pizzarelli said the cause of death was complications from the COVID-19 virus.

“My father was a mentor to so many guitarists both professional and amateur,” John Pizzarelli wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday morning. “Always doling out advice, always encouraging, always in tune and always ready for a record date.”

Born on Jan. 9, 1926 in Paterson, N.J., Bucky Pizzarelli learned music from his uncles, who played guitar and banjo professionally.

During his career, Pizzarelli worked for NBC and ABC and collaborated with legends including Benny Goodman, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Les Paul and Stéphane Grappelli.

Pizzarelli was an in-demand session musician throughout the ’50s and ’60s and can be heard on hundreds of recordings made during that time. He was “a master of the subtle art of rhythm guitar as well as a gifted soloist,” according to his obituary in The New York Timesbut only became more widely known later in his life.

Pizzarelli recorded 28 albums as a leader, 10 in support of his son John and many more as a sideman for artists including Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Rosemary Clooney, Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer, Carly Simon and Anita Baker.

Pizzarelli’s other son Martin is a double bassist, and his daughter Mary is a classical guitarist. The family often performed and recorded together, along with John’s wife, the vocalist Jessica Molaskey.

Since 2005, John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey have hosted the program Radio Deluxe on JAZZ.FM91.

For those wanting to show support, John Pizzarelli is encouraging donations to be made to the Jazz Foundation of America in his father’s honour; visit jazzfoundation.org or call Joe Petrucelli at 212-245-3999 x10.

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