John Pizzarelli greeted his audience at the Café Carlyle last Tuesday with a jovial, “Welcome to spring!” The comment had a sarcastic edge to it, for while it was indeed true that spring was a few hours old, you would never know it from the weather outside.  All throughout Tuesday, the sky had been cold and grey and a winter storm warning was in effect for the following day.  And indeed, as I wrote this review, I could hear snow plows outside.

So once again in the cold of winter one is reminded of the value of warm indoor entertainment to lift the spirits. Pizzarelli and his accompanying trio of talented musicians certainly provided that in an evening devoted to Nat King Cole. Virtually all of the songs on the program had been recorded at one time or another by the legendary artist, and Pizzarelli bantered about how his devotion to the singer could be traced to when recordings of Cole were largely available only on vinyl.

Pizzarelli began the musical odyssey through Cole country with a rendition of Harold Arlen’s classic “Paper Moon,” followed by  memorable renditions of “Sweet Lorraine” and the playful “I’m an Errand Boy for Rhythm.” The ensemble consisting of Pizzarelli (vocals and guitar), Michael Karn (bass), Andy Watson (drums) and Konrad Paszkudzki (piano) played exceptionally cohesively.  As with most jazz concerts, each of the instrumentalists was given their moment to shine with musical pyrotechnics.  But in general,  overt virtuosity was eschewed to create a subtle, integrated musical tapestry.

Pizzarelli has a fun sense of humor that is often self-deprecating. Towards the middle of his set, he announced that he would perform a series of “food songs,” which included “Frim Fram Sauce”,  “Save the Bones for Henry Jones” and “Headed out to Vera’s.” This was followed by a mellow rendition of “Portrait of Jenny.” Like Cole, I found Pizzarelli’s vocal delivery largely relaxed and well proportioned to the relatively small space of the Café. The rewarding evening ended with a spirited rendition of “Route 66.” It is a testament to Pizzarelli’s generosity as a performer that I will remember the concert as much for his vocal work as the exceptional quality of his sophisticated band.

Upcoming engagements at the Café Carlyle include the legendary singer Judy Collins who will be appearing March 27-April 7.  And Woody Allen performs with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band every Monday evening through June 11.

John Pizzarelli performs at the Carlyle through March 24. This show is highly recommended for those who enjoy subtle, intelligent music making with some laughter thrown into the mix.

The Café Carlyle is located at 35 East 76th St. in New York.