with Joe Diorio, Chuck Domanico, Colin Bailey, Gene Bertoncini, Phil Upchurch, Jim Hughart, Claudio Slon, Lee Ritenour, Chuck Berghofer, Joe LaBarbera, Ted Greene, Dori Caymmi, José Marino
Recorded 1994 & 1995.
MORE RELEASES FROM JOHN PISANO
ABOUT JOHN PISANO
John Pisano has been recognized as one of the nation’s finest jazz guitarists since first emerging on the scene in the mid-Fifties. Even if his name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, odds are that you’ve heard his guitar work. Although he had occasionally stepped forward to lead his own groups, for years his "comfort zone" was the background, where he’d supported some of music’s biggest names, including Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes, Peggy Lee, Burt Bacharach, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand.
In the last several years, however, Pisano has assumed the leader’s role, releasing a series of Pablo dates remarkable for their beauty and musical camaraderie. Among Friends (1995) was the first, featuring him in duet settings with six of the instrument’s most talented players: Lee Ritenour, Phil Upchurch, Ron Affif, Dori Caymmi, Ted Greene, and the late Joe Pass, with whom John had worked extensively for three decades. (Pass died on May 23, 1994.) Pass was also heard on last year’s Duets, which focused on empathic guitar conversations recorded at a 1991 Pisano/Pass session.
The new Pablo release, Conversation Pieces, includes wonderfully varied material from 1994 and ’95 recordings with, once again, Lee Ritenour, Phil Upchurch, Ted Greene, and Dori Caymmi, as well as Joe Diorio and Gene Bertoncini. Eric Miller, who was Pass’s producer in the guitarist’s final years, has also produced all of Pisano’s dates for the label.
For nearly 40 years, John Pisano’s playing has provided a model for improvisational creativity, technical excellence, and a seamless blend of jazz and Latin elements. Born in New York City on February 6, 1931, he studied piano when he was 10, and picked up the guitar at 14. (On his Pablo recordings you can occasionally hear a fine Forties-era Epiphone Deluxe that belonged to his father, an amateur guitarist.) "When I was a kid, I was fascinated by a guitar break played by George Van Eps on the radio show Blondie," he adds. "Early on I was influenced by Django Reinhardt, and, later, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Raney, and Chuck Wayne, who I studied with. I was also intrigued by Laurindo Almeida’s Brazilian acoustic guitar sound."
From 1951 until 1956, John played with the Air Force Band. After leaving the service, he began a two-year stint with a quintet led by Chico Hamilton, during which time he settled in Los Angeles. Two brilliant recordings with undersung guitarist Billy Bean-1958’s Makin’ It and 1959’s Take Your Pick-were instrumental in cementing his considerable reputation among guitarists.
In the Sixties, Pisano became well established in the Los Angeles studio scene and also supported luminaries such as Buddy DeFranco, Red Norvo, Bud Shank, Fred Katz, Jimmy Giuffre, Peggy Lee, Bobby Troup, Julie London, and Benny Goodman. In addition, he developed a fast friendship with Joe Pass, appearing on four of his mid-Sixties recordings, including the classic For Django with Colin Bailey and Jim Hughart. From 1965 to 1969 John was a member of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, and he also recorded with Sergio Mendes’s Brazil ’66, worked with songwriter Burt Bacharach, and helped compose "Wind Song," which the great Wes Montgomery included on 1968’s Down Here on the Ground.
Pisano continued to do studio work throughout the Seventies; however, he still found time to teach at North Hollywood’s Valley College and perform with figures such as Ritenour, Tony Rizzi, Michael Franks, and Clare Fischer. In the Eighties, he worked with Oscar Castro-Neves, and recorded 1981’s Ira, George, and Joe and 1985’s Whitestone with Joe Pass. In 1989, Pisano suggested that Pass reunite the group on For Django; the result was the memorable Summer Nights. Their last album together was 1993’s Live at Yoshi’s. (All of the Pass dates were released on the Pablo label.)
Today, John plays with his Brazilian group Velas, is a member of Frank Capp’s Juggernaut Band, and works with his vocalist wife, Jeanne. He hosts (and performs at) a "Guitar Night" held Tuesdays at the Encino, California club Papashon’s, and has worked several times at the popular Zinc Bar in lower Manhattan. This year he and Jeanne also completed a series of dates in the Hawaiian islands.
While his Pablo recording sessions summed up his relationships with some of the players he’s grown close to over the years, they also marked a new beginning. "The first album was dedicated to Joe Pass, who was a towering player," he says, "although we probably spent more time eating and just hanging out than playing together. My background has always been to be in the background. But while I like being a supporting player, I am also enjoying being out front. Good things have been happening as a result of the albums, so I’m looking forward to becoming more of a leader." Pisano’s Pablo recordings clearly prove what he can do when given that opportunity.