Remembering Bucky Pizzarelli and the joys of jazz parties

I recently received a delightful note from Joe Galetovic of Denver, Colorado. He is a jazz friend who I first met in the 1980s while we were both attending the famous Dick Gibson Labor Day weekend jazz party in Denver. We have kept in contact and he and his wife Linda are now more active than I in traveling to similar events. Consequently, he updates me on their activities and comments about the performers.

He had recently attended the San Diego Jazz Party and kindly sent me the program. Interesting, duo pianists Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi were among the performers. (I’ve blogged about this couple and saw them a week or so later at the Ragtime Festival in Starkville, Mississippi.) Interestingly, some of the other performers at the SD Jazz Party had performed for us previously in Pensacola. They include saxophonist Harry Allen, trombonist Dan Barrett, vocalist Rebecca Kilgore, bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott, clarinetist Ken Peplowski and guitarist Frank Vignola.

Painting by Nina Fritz of jazz violinist Johnny Frigo, left, and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, based on a photo by Norman Vickers.

Longtime guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli was a recent death, along with his wife, both victims of COVID-19. Bucky was a wonderful person and a wonderful jazz ambassador. Bucky was a regular performer at the Gibson parties and jazz host Dick Gibson always would schedule a duo performance along with jazz violinist Johnny Frigo. There is a Nina Fritz painting in the jazz room at our downtown West Florida Public Library depicting Bucky and Johnny. It was painted based on a photo I took of them rehearsing — each had their instrument in hand. In five minutes, they would discuss songs and keys and then perform them for one hour.

We had Bucky and Johnny perform for Pensacola JazzFest but separately, as their schedules did not mesh. Frigo came with Frank Vignola and, a few years later, Bucky came with Nicki Parrot. Both duos were marvelous.

I want to quote the tribute that Joe Galetovic wrote me about loss of Bucky and wife to the virus:

“Linda and I were left breathless — like losing a member of the family. Over the years Bucky was a regular at Summit Jazz in Denver, so it was Bucky who ‘took us’ to San Diego Jazz Party first time. It was Bucky who made us go to West Texas Jazz Party, Bucky was ‘the reason’ we went to Atlanta Jazz Parties. Bucky introduced us to Matt and Rachel Domber and Arbors Jazz parties. He also took us to Elkhart and Cleveland … not to speak of all the times we went to New York to listen to him; tape new CDs ad NOLA studies, heard him at 92nd Street Y, at Symphony Hall on the West side, in Cavatappo; at Hotel Carlisle, Feinstein’s at Regency etc …”

Yes, Bucky will be greatly missed, but his son John is carrying on the legacy.

So thanks, Bucky for brightening our lives and leaving loving children to honor your tremendous musical legacy. Also, thanks Joe and Linda Galetovic for your friendship and enthusiasm for jazz. Keep us in the loop!

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