John Pizzarelli, son of jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli, has recorded nearly 40 albums and has appeared on "The Today Show," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and "The Late Show with David Letterman." On this recording, he collaborates with Rick Haydon, jazz guitarist and music professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Haydon teaches jazz improvisation and also runs the university's recording studio. He performs regularly with various jazz bands, including the trio, O.G.D. (Organ, Guitar and Drums).
Pizzarelli and Haydon played together at the Classic American Guitar Show in New York City in 2004, and decided to record together soon afterwards. Both men play seven-string guitar. They are accompanied by Martin Pizzarelli, John's brother, on bass, and Tony Tedesco on drums.
Just Friends, recorded in one day in New York City, contains 11 songs. The '30s or '40s guitar style is, for the most part, swing and bop. Six tracks are jazz standards, such as "Perdido" which is flashy and brisk and "Sometime Ago," gentle, soft and sweet. Four are arrangements from Al Cohn and Zoot Sims with guitar parts replacing saxophone. "Chasin’ the Blues," and "Halley’s Comet," two out of the three Al Cohn tunes covered are delightfully infused with vim and high-flying spirit. The third Al Cohn cover, "Two Funky People," is a bit more laid back and mellow. Haydon's upbeat arrangement of "Tony's Tune," composed by late jazz guitarist Tony Mottola, begins with a stirring, reflective air and then opens up into a smooth swinger. Their rendition of Luis Bonfa’s "Samba de Orfeu" is a fast-paced romp with a steady, bouncy and driving beat. "It’s A Wonderful World" takes on a light and carefree attitude with Pizzarelli on bass, providing solid ground and Tedesco’s drums enthusiastically sprinkling extra heapings of zest. "Just Friends," closes out the recording, showcasing both artists’ skill and dexterity and gives listeners the impression that this collaboration was joyfully and exuberantly created and performed.