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johnpizzarelli.com
John Pizzarelli, center, and his band will perform at the JazzSLC series on Jan. 5.

SALT LAKE CITY — According to JazzSLC series founder Gordon Hanks, there aren't many better ways to begin 2019 than with some of the jazz world's favorites — especially in this important year.

"We’re beginning our 25th Silver Anniversary concert with one of the series' favorite musicians, John Pizzarelli, and the amazingly talented Catherine Russell, sharing tunes of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday," Hanks said in a phone interview. "It’s not a bad way to start the new year, is it?"

The concert comes to the Capitol Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 5. Catching up with John Pizzarelli after he recorded a Christmas episode of his radio show, "Radio Deluxe," the celebrated jazz guitarist explained how he and Russell met and decided to tour together.

"Catherine was on our show as a guest and we hit it off very well," Pizzarelli recalled. "My wife and partner in 'Radio Deluxe,' Jessica Molasky, suggested the idea of doing a tour with Catherine and I loved the idea … so here we are."

Jim Cooper, Associated Press
Jazz guitarist-singer John Pizzarelli poses at New York's Algonquin Hotel on Feb. 26, 1999.

The Pizzarelli/Russell combo makes sense: Both musicians love music from the early swing period to the classic American songbook from the ’40s and ’50s. And both were born into musical families, encouraged from an early age to pursue their musical dreams.

Russell’s musical bloodline runs deep, with both her parents being major figures in the Harlem Renaissance as composers, arrangers and directors. Her father, Luis Russell, was born in Panama and was a celebrated big band leader who moved to New Orleans to become Louis Armstrong's musical director. Her mother, Carline Ray, was a master bass player, vocalist and teacher who performed and taught into her late 80s.

Said Russell, "Growing up I was influenced by all genres of music. It wasn’t just a big part of our lives — music was our lives. My parents loved opera and our house was always full of all types of musicians."

One would assume that with such an upbringing, Russell would be drawn into music. At first, she took a different path.

“It always surprises people when they find out I started my career as a dancer," she explained. "Music was not my first choice. I studied under one of the great dance teachers in the world and when she moved away from New York I sort of lost my energy to dance and then music found me."

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And so it goes.

"This concert will be like stepping into a time machine and then stepping out into the Blue Note to listen to the best singers of the day," Gordon Hanks added. "People shouldn’t miss this one. I do think this will be one of our best concerts."

If you go …

What: JazzSLC series — John Pizzarelli Trio with Catherine Russell

When: Saturday, Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

How much: $29.50 for adults, $10 for students

Phone: 801-355-ARTS

Web: jazzslc.com