GUITAR NIGHT: About John Pisano
I feel it’s important to take a moment to tell you a bit about John Pisano. If you read his bio in any of the popular jazz dictionaries or encyclopedias you will find that he started as a guitarist at the age of 14. After touring with the Air Force Band he played with Chico Hamilton’s Quintet, worked with Buddy DeFranco among others, recorded with Billy Bean, Fred Katz, and Joe Pass with whom he also toured for 10 years. He was Peggy Lee's accompanist, collaborated with Burt Bachrach, and Sergio Mendez/Brazil 66, played with Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, toured with Diana Krall and is an accomplished songwriter. These facts, though impressive, really don't tell you a great deal about this multi talented, warm, and gracious man. So with your indulgence, I would like to try.
At this writing , I have known and photographed John and his Guitar Night for eleven years. In that time I have made some observations which I will share with you.
The first is, I have never known anyone who loves his work more than John Pisano. It’s been over sixty years that he has been playing guitar and there isn’t a jaded or lackluster moment at any time I’ve ever heard him play. There is a transformation that takes place when John starts to play that is just a joy to experience. There is a smile, maybe more of a grin that comes over his face. I call this the "I can’t believe I’m actually getting paid to do this" smile. It’s incredibly engaging and allows his audience to just open up and take it all in.
Secondly, a shared performance is not a competition for John. In the theater this attitude is called, "ensemble", where all contribute to the betterment of the artistic endeavor. When John works with other guitarists, he not only shares the light and musical moments with them graciously giving them the stage, but also pays them the great compliment of echoing their musical style. He has this chameleon like quality of adapting to his musical environment.
Thirdly, I have never seen John lose his temper. I’ve seen him annoyed at an occasional club owner or manager who thinks it’s about the food and drink (poor misguided souls), you know the type, the “promises, promises, promises, and never seem to remember” kind of guys. John takes it all in stride and deals with all the frustrations of a musician’s life with style and grace.
Lastly, I admire the ease and charm of his introductions and other hostly duties. Many musicians shine when they play, but shy away from the mike. Not so with John. Always with great humor and command, the repartee rather than being "In stuff" that could alienate his audience, is always inclusive and adds to the evening’s enjoyment. Anyway, he invited me to his first guitar night. I came. BB