Bucky Pizzarelli, a tasteful sage of jazz guitar who spent the first phase of his career as a prolific session player and the last phase as a celebrated patriarch, died on Wednesday in Saddle River, N.J. He was 94.
Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, his oldest son and regular musical partner, said the cause was the coronavirus.
Pizzarelli was revered for the technical aplomb that enabled him to combine intricate runs, full chordal accompaniment and even his own walking bass lines. His rock-solid rhythmic footing and broad harmonic understanding were hallmarks of a warmly understated style that always drew attention to the song he was playing, rather than the playing itself.
During Pizzarelli's years of commercial studio work in the 1950s and '60s, he played on hundreds of recordings like Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind." Pizzarelli began to gain more recognition in jazz circles during the 1970s, establishing a guitar duo formula with George Barnes that he'd continue for the rest of his life with other impeccable partners.