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Challis in Wonderland

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19435



1. Sunday
2. Sugar
3. Challis in Wonderland
4. Davenport Blues
5. In the Dark
6. Romanza
7. Singing the Blues
8. In a Mist
9. Oh Baby
10. Sugar
11. Candlelights
12. What's New
13. I'm Coming Virginia
14. Flashes

Bucky Pizzarelli- Acoustic guitar, seven-string guitar
John Pizzarelli - Seven-string guitar (tracks 3, 5, 6, 12)
Jerry Bruno - Bass
Dick Lieb Strings: Strings arranged and conducted by Dick Lieb (tracks 1, 4, 7, 10, 13)
Aaron Weinstein - Violin (featured on string tracks, Trio 2), mandolin (track 9)
Svetlana Tsoneva - Violin
Olivia Koppell - Viola
Jesse Levy - Cello


Bill Challis is a name that will be known to keen jazz fans, as he was an influential arranger for the orchestras of Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman. As a close friend of Bix Beiderbecke, Challis transcribed some of Bix's compositions, five of which appear on this CD, which is Bucky Pizzarelli's tribute to the arranger - and incidentally to Bix. Many tracks are tunes associated with Beiderbecke.

Strings are prominent in many of the tracks, not only through the guitar strings of Bucky Pizzarelli and his son John but in string arrangements by Dick Lieb. Dick's arrangement of Sunday is rather too slow but violinist Aaron Weinstein contributes some nice solos to an ensemble which is reminiscent of the Hot Club of France. I am not sure what the personnel listings mean by Aaron being "featured on string tracks, Trio 2" as he seems to be featured on most numbers.

The title-track pays homage to Bill Challis through a leisurely stroll by Bucky and John's guitars. Davenport Blues is the first of the five Beiderbecke compositions, given a fairly jaunty reading with the help of Dick Lieb's strings. In the Dark is another Bix composition which might be described as the brother of his famous In a Mist. Romanza is a short piece by Zez Comfrey (or Confrey? - who was associated with Paul Whiteman), very much in the same style and played as a duet by the two Pizzarellis.

Singing the Blues is one of Bix's most famous recordings, and In a Mist is probably his best-known composition. The latter is transformed into a pleasing guitar solo by Bucky Pizzarelli. Aaron Weinstein's mandolin comes through clearly in Oh Baby but Dick Lieb's strings make Sugar too ponderous and Weinstein's violin sounds rather sour.

Bucky Pizzarelli plays Candlelights and Flashes on his own, showing his affection for these Beiderbecke compositions. John Pizzarelli joins in for What's New - not associated with Bix but simply because Bucky likes the tune. I'm Coming Virginia is one of my favourite Bix recordings but the melody is given to the cello and then the strings. This somehow weighs the tune down, but Bucky enters with an airy solo, to be joined by Aaron Weinstein's equally vivacious violin.

All in all, a worthy tribute to Bill Challis, although the strings tend to make some tracks more weighty than is good for them.

Tony Augarde

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