With Harry Connick Jr.’s defection from balladeering to freeze-dried gumbo-party music, John Pizzarelli is the current contender for the Sinatra-Bennett Chair of Pop Crooning. Although a competent jazz guitarist (but no patch on his father, Bucky) and equipped with the requisite strong Italian profile, Pizzarelli is hampered by a singular liability—he can’t sing very well. His wan, mewling tenor and tentative, throwaway delivery of lyrics have little impact; his pitch problems and difficulty sustaining tones make his vocal efforts consistently grating. Let’s Share Christmas, a lavish production featuring string and brass charts by a host of illustrious arrangers (among them Don Sebesky, Patrick Williams, Johnny Mandel, Clare Fisher, Ralph Burns, and Michel Legrand), emphasizes his limitations. Like a chunk of gravel on a bed of black velvet, Pizzarelli is absurdly outclassed by these plush settings. He brings nothing fresh or distinctive to hoary seasonal standards (“White Christmas,” “The Christmas Song”), struggles painfully with the challenging intervals of Claude Thornhill’s “Snowfall,” and is defeated by the operatic demands of Legrand’s grandiose arrangement of “Silent Night.” Bah! Humbug!
—Joel E. Scroogel