STAMFORD -- Despite waking up early in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for a flight and a long drive to Stamford, guitarist John Pizzarelli participated in a master class for aspiring musicians of the Stamford Young Artists Summer Jazz Workshop Wednesday at the Butterfield 8 restaurant on Bedford Street.
Pizzarelli and his quartet positioned themselves close to each other in order to facilitate eye contact and hearing each another.
"Lesson one: set up close," Pizzarelli quipped.
The band's first tune was "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." While not a traditional jazz standard, Pizzarelli's clever arrangement juxtaposed jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery's "Four on Six" with the Allman Brothers classic. Pizzarelli and company swung hard and played eventful solos. Students bobbed their heads, belting out "yeahs" during parts of the performance that excited them.
Pizzarelli's demeanor was very relaxed when he spoke to students. "That was a mash up for all you kids," Pizzarelli said, describing the first tune.
Students asked Pizzarelli questions about accompanying other musicians, as well as how to keep a band together and traveling. He also discussed his preference for using a seven string guitar and emphasized the importance of learning and memorizing many as songs as possible.
"The more you memorize these, the better," Pizzarelli said, holding up "The Real Book," a book of jazz standards.
Having partnered with the Stamford Downtown Special Services District and having faculty who has played with Pizzarelli, the Young Artists camp was glad to secure Pizzarelli as a guest clinician.
Joyce DiCamillo, piano instructor at the camp, was thrilled to have Pizzarelli on hand. She said his playing of the Great American Songbook and interpretations of pop songs of the '60s and the '70s made him an ideal candidate for students to learn from.
"This is the audience for it, this is the audience of the future -- this is how jazz grows," she said.
In addition to the workshop, Pizzarelli and band were also the first headliners of Wednesday night's "Jazz up July" concert series in Columbus Park, which is in its second year. DiCamilo said that interest in the concert series has "generated traffic around the music" and jazz camp's offerings.
DiCamillo and John Mastroianni, the camp founder, hope to integrate more "Jazz up July" artists into their summer program.
The jazz camp is in its 20th year and has 38 students. It is using four downtown locations for providing jazz instruction -- Butterfield 8, Landmark Square, Ferguson Library and Quattro Pazzi.
"It's fitting to do something different for the 20th anniversary of the camp," DeCamillo said.
Students were dazzled by Pizzarelli's performance and advice.
"What I really enjoyed was the amount of energy they put into it -- all the soul and all the creativity," said Andrew DeNicola, a 17-year-old saxophonist from Stamford.
Steven Ciasullo, a, 18-year-old saxophonist from Fairfield, agreed.
"It was really cool to see that they love what they do. You could hear it in their playing, they were smiling and see how much they were enjoying themselves. It was a great opportunity to hear," Ciasullo said.
The Stamford Young Artists Summer Jazz Workshop will offer a student concert at 7 p.m. Sunday at Butterfield 8, 112 Bedford St. The concert is open to the public.