Bucky Pizzarelli’s Fingerstyle Recordings (1971-78)

Bucky Pizzarelli is one of the pioneers of modern jazz, swing, and popular guitar, having been an active part of the recording, broadcasting, and entertainment industries from the 1940’s until his death in 2020. Among his many innovations and talents, were his contributions to the popular solo guitar style known as “chord melody.” He developed his version initially as a fingerstyle technique, following the example of George Van Eps, who had introduced a production Gretsch 7-string guitar in the late 1960’s (pictured above). It was with with George Barnes that Pizzarelli started playing this unique style on recordings (first accompanying others, then with solo tunes thrown in). Here I have collected recordings made by Bucky between 1971-78, in which he was playing solo and accompaniment fingerstyle on his Gretsch. 1972 saw the release of three albums featuring Bucky playing in this style, and 4 solo tracks in total appear on these albums. In the late 70’s, he switched to a pick/thumb because of a hand injury, and soon after recorded the brilliant Love Songs album. Although Love Songs is perhaps his greatest solo album (and perhaps THE greatest solo jazz guitar album), personally I’m really interested in his fingerpicking style. Those who wonder what Love Songs might have sounded like had he played fingerstyle, can compare the solo tracks on the 1970’s recordings with his later thumb/plectrum interpretations of some of the same songs. I believe he played his Gretsch on all of these recordings, and did not switch to a Benedetto until after he had committed to thumb/plectrum playing. Below you will find links to all known recordings in which Bucky is playing fingerstyle, either solo or duo.

Note on the audio quality: I have posted links to YouTube, simply because it is the one platform that contains the most albums and tracks, and anyone can access them for free. Some of these albums are available on Spotify and iTunes, or on other streaming services (e.g. the live 1977 session). Some albums are LP releases which never made it to CD. If you want the best sound quality, purchasing the CD or LP is the way to go.

(links will be added and updated as I find them. Please send additional info if you have any)

Guitars Pure and Honest (1971, LP only), with George Barnes. Legend has it that Bucky went over to Barnes’s studio shortly after acquiring the Gretch 7 string, and they were both extremely happy with the combination. This album is the result of that early partnership.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeYP_rvFTTc&t=330s

Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, June/17/1971, Barnes and Bucky are the featured musical guest. I can’t find a clip of this online.

The Guitar album (1972, LP only), with George Barnes. Barnes and Pizzarelli are featured on only one track from this album. It is a Beatles medley. Bucky plays Eleanor Rigby solo, then they segue into a duo rendition of Here, There and Everywhere.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klxRpl_hnek

Green Guitar Blues (1972). Perhaps known as a trio album (often combined with a second trio album “Cafe Pierre Trio”), he records three tracks solo, which are beautifully played and beautifully recorded, to exploit the full range of the 7 string guitar.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLR_u6nw9LLObWhTeIy03sBIzw8cvVZ6tY

Blue Bossa (1972), with Eddie Daniels.
Bucky provides solid accompaniment, on classical as well as 7 string archtop. He records one solo track on this album, Two For The Road.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kwUTntTq0aGBceB9yHpZJMIKntlT2zPYE

Nirvana (1974) (aka Somebody Loves Me, and Send in The Clowns), with Zoot Sims.
Two tracks really shine on this album, Come Rain or Come Shine, and Memories of You. Both are duets, and Bucky doesn’t take a solo on either of them. His accompaniments are masterful. He also plays a beautiful solo rendition of Send In The Clowns.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0q2VleZJVEkImTq4Aq5Am9-nw08tnURl

Bucky and Bud (1976, LP only), with Bud Freeman. Not a duo album, but about half the album is played duo, with full rhythm section songs between: see Easy To Love, I could Write a Book, You Took Advantage of Me, Exactly Like You, and Dinah.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdfmirjP7bc&t=1400s

First Time Out (1976), with Warren Vache. A few tracks sound like they are played thumb/pick. Perhaps he was starting to make the switch?
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lHAX4zpzDnS_LHANHSAe67Io2TgLXBUUI

Zoot Sims With Bucky Pizzarelli (1976)
Live date(s), appears in a few different formats, with different album covers.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAzHladAmkCTknTnn_hQkVsORu8Jksc0F

Zoot Sims Live (June 10, 1977, 2 sets, streaming only) live at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco (online only, via the Bill Graham archives). Beautiful solo and duo tracks can be found on this album, Even though live, Bucky’s solo playing on this date is excellent. In set 2, “Slow Burning” is actually 3 solo tunes in a row (Slow Burning, Tangerine, and The Very Thought of You).
(note: this is a streaming platform, which requires a subscription to play the whole session through. But, if you click on an individual track, it will play the whole track, then you can click on the next one)
(set 1)
https://www.wolfgangs.com/music/zoot-sims/audio/20054215-51272.html?tid=4900143

(set 2)
https://www.wolfgangs.com/music/zoot-sims/audio/20054216-51272.html?tid=45973

Zoot Sims, Live in Japan, 1977, 2 vols. (various tracks on Youtube)

Also, “Live in Yamagata” also 1977. Various tracks available on YouTube: e.g. The Very Thought of You, duet with Zoot on Soprano
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMSGviT05es

Doug and Bucky (1978), with Doug Jernigan on pedal steel.
Bucky plays quite a few solo tunes on this album (Slow Burning, End of a Love Affair, Round Midnight), and it is instructive to compare these to his later thumb/pick recordings of the same songs. The CD transfer quality is lacking, and I’d be curious to know if the original LP sounds better.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nMgtiMjfghucZ5vhYq0kNM7mVXhDgCIBQ

Live in Nice, France, (1978). Invitation, duet with Lee Konitz. Notice here how Bucky starts and ends the song with a pick, but plays fingerstyle during the comping and his brief solo.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwA4hO5UpjY
(Note: In the same concert, he plays The Very Thought of You entirely with a pick. The previous year, 1977, he played this same arrangement fingerstyle at the San Francisco concert with Zoot Sims (linked above)

Special thanks to Edward Decker for details, and for inspiring me to learn more about Bucky’s life, teaching, and playing. His book of transcriptions, and Youtube videos are the best tools for emulating Bucky’s technique.