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March 3, 2009 at 7:41 PM

Music to cook by. I’ll take Pizza — relli. How about you?

What music do you listen to while you’re cooking? When I posed that question on air to my radio sidekick Dick Stein, he told me he listens to Zydeco if he’s making Cajun food, maybe some opera if he’s cooking Italian and, uh, Meat Loaf when he’s prepping meatloaf.

Me? I listen to lots of James Taylor and Karrin Allyson; Crosby, Stills & Nash and a ton of Brazilian jazz. I’ve worn the grooves off my several recordings of Getz and Gilberto singing Jobim, and regularly play the Brazilian Lounge compilation half the bistros in town seem to have on their sound systems. But often as not, I’m listening to that Italian guy from Jersey whose voice I adore. No, not that guy! The other Jersey Boy: John Pizzarelli — the crooner who has “Pizza” in his name.

Just last night I was hanging out alone in the kitchen, cooking my favorite lamb shank recipe. I had the tunes turned up, loud. And what I was listening to over and over again was a song I just can’t get out of my head: PIzzarelli’s “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” — the last track on his Richard Rogers tribute-album “With a Song in My Heart.”

If you’ve seen the musical “South Pacific” or listened to the score (“Bloooooody Mary is the [pause] girl I love — da, da, da, dah!”), you’ve heard that tune. But before last Friday night, when I was attending the 33rd annual Friends of Frank Demiero Jazz Festival at the Edmonds Center for the Arts , where Pizzarelli was performing, I’d never paid attention to the lyrics.

Piz was acting as artistic director for the jazz festival, and he spent the weekend with other professional music-makers offering clinics and workshops, jazzing it up with school kids from Washington, Oregon and Vancouver B.C. He was so impressed with the Impressions — a jazz choir from Lynnwood’s Meadowdale High School — he decided to bring them out on stage Friday night, telling the crowd they’d brought him to tears earlier in the day with their rendition of his arrangement of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”

Then he started playing. And singing that song, describing with sweet emotion how racism is cultivated — at home. And then the kids started singing. And I started tearing up. And you’d better believe I left the concert hall with a song in my heart — and that CD in my hand. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the CD: the Impressions weren’t on it, so I had to sing their backup vocals in one-part harmony while I was making those lamb shanks, which didn’t sound anywhere near as good as they did.

And then, today — like magic, swear! — the video below appeared in my email inbox. It’ll take some time to listen to, what with all Pizzarelli’s charming chatter, but trust me, you should listen-in. It’s a song everyone should hear and heed. Besides, if you watch it, you’ll get to see first hand why that Pizza guy tops my charts, both in the kitchen and out:

Comments | More in Cooking | Topics: Fun stuff

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