I had the privilege of returning to the legendary Café Carlyle Tuesday night for another exquisite evening of dinner and music, this time with guitarist John Pizzarelli and vocalist Jessica Molaskey. Remarkably, this year marks the husband-wife duo's 10th annual appearance at the Carlyle, remarking that their daughter - who was only eight years old when they debuted - was in the audience, home on break from college.
Sitting at a small table less than five feet from the stage, it was impossible not to be completely transfixed by the performance, despite the occasional clang of glasses and silverware. Molaskey grabbed our attention right away with her gutting opener, Jason Robert's Brown's "Hope", written on the day after the election:
"I come to sing a song about hope.
In spite of everything ridiculous and sad,
Though I’m beyond belief depressed, confused and mad,
Well – I got dressed.
I underestimated how much that would take."
But soon, things took a more lighthearted turn, with Pizzarelli and Molaskey bantering back and forth about their 20 years of professional and personal partnership. Pizzarelli was dazzling on guitar, switching back and forth between his custom Moll archtop (electric) and flattop (acoustic) while singing new and old standards by everyone from Yip Harburg ("Look to the Rainbow") to Dave Frishberg ("Slappin' the Cakes on Me"). Molaskey, who's currently finishing up an album of Joni Mitchell covers, delivered heartfelt versions of Mitchell's classics "Help Me" and "A Case of You." But, the highlight of the evening was the Ellington classic "Perdido", with Pizzarelli playing the rapid fire opening riff along with new lyrics penned by Molaskey. I can't think of a more enjoyable, elegant way to kick off the holiday season.
John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey appear at the Café Carlyle through December 1, with nightly shows Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets and more information available at the reservation desk or online. And, gentlemen, don't forget your jackets.
More pics on the photo page.