By Cathy Segal-Garcia
John Pisano on guitar, Jamie Findlay guest guitarist, John Belzaguy on bass and Tin Pleasant on drums. They were all on stage last Tuesday as I walked into Lucy’s 51 in Toluca Lake (on the location of the old Money Tree).
I’ve seen Guitar Night many times in the past, but I haven’t been to Lucy’s 51 to see it; my Tuesdays have been too busy. But this time my old pal Jamie was the guest guitarist, and I was actually free, so there I was.
But the crowd noise was unbearable. Actually unbearable. How these literally screaming people could have been so unconscious to the truly beautiful music which was going on was beyond me.
Was this normal for Lucy’s? Just proves that this level of musicians can set up almost anywhere, and still play beautifully. Not that they probably wouldn’t play better in a better environment… but they still sounded gorgeous anyway.
I confess, I have a “thing” for guitar. The sound has fascinated me since I first heard rock and blues in the ‘70s and Pat Metheny, Pat Martino, Mick Goodrick, Joe Diorio, Ted Greene, Jim Hall, John Scofield and Bill Frisell in the 80s. And so on.
I’ve sung with John Pisano and I’ve sung with Jamie Findlay, and it’s always been great fun, musically and personally. They’re both stellar people… beautiful examples of the jazz spirit.
It has never ceased to amaze me what an incredible musician John is. He’s always been brilliant. Tasteful, melodic, harmonically interesting, rhythmically adventurous. And Jamie and I have played together so much over the years that my ears instantly recognize his beautiful sound and ideas. A wonderful spirit, a beautiful player. Together, John and Jamie are adventurous and fun — a ball to watch and listen to.
Add to that bassist John Belzaguy, who is really a beautiful player. I first met him at a time in my life when I was trying to reach out to people I didn’t know in an effort to attract them to what I was doing. I was in line at Costco’s, and decided to talk to this nice looking guy behind me. I asked him if he liked jazz. He looked at me with a quiet stare, and said a slow “Yes.” Little did I know then that he was John Belzaguy, one of the best jazz bass players in town.
On Tuesday night his playing was strong and melodic. On one song he actually picked up his bow and played arco. And I could hear him perfectly, even with the crowd noise. He’s a great, supportive bass player. And talking about support, I can’t overlook Tim Pleasant, who is always so “there” when he’s playing. He’s a great drummer – good time, dynamics, while really listening to the other players and adding his touch to the music.
When Pisano played, I was completely wrapped up in his inventiveness, watching his wonderful long fingers skillfully dancing over the frets. Little did the strange, loud people in Lucy’s audience realize that they were hearing the royalty of musicians in John Pisano. His long resume includes some of the music world’s major stars, from Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett and Herb Alpert to Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and many others.
No wonder the joy in this musical evening was so tangible. Even in this noisiest of rooms, the subtleties were ever present. Wonderful subtleties, changing and shifting… supported by bass and drums. Two guitar magicians leading the way, playing and darting in-between the stars in an aesthetic universe that we can only know with our spirits and our emotions.
After the second set I was told that the volume of the crowd on the first set was unusual, even for Lucy’s. Well, the truth was that the music was so damn good that it just didn’t matter. The group was so much on the same page that everything they played moved totally together — forward, like a train full of elegance.
What a great listening experience it was. How lucky we were to be able to sit in the presence of these wonderful artists and be invited to share their universe of play and creativity. Thank you to each one… John, Jamie, John and Tim. It was an honor.
To read more reviews by Cathy Segal-Garcia click HERE.