I was just sitting around wondering … got your spats on? That’d be aces, because I’m going to flap my gums a little about the spectacular jazz and pop program Radio Deluxe.
Hosted by the almost pathologically talented musical power couple John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey from their “Deluxe Living Room high atop Lexington Avenue” (during the COVID pandemic, they’ve been broadcasting from their Deluxe Cabin in upstate New York), each episode helps shake the blues away with an impeccable roster of songs yanked from a century of jazz and pop vocal recordings. There is just enough warm married-couple banter to half convince me that I’m sitting there in the Deluxe Living Room with them.
Think of them as to-the-nth-degree-cooler Donny and Marie (but married! It’s not weird!). She’s a little bit Broadway, he’s a little bit, er, jazz-n-roll. Each two-hour-ish episode (but WHAT IS TIME THESE DAYS?) is organized loosely around a theme (September Songs, Our Favorite Things, etc.) and each feels the precise opposite of how academic that sounds.
While both hosts are practically soaking in musical history (and John is a never-ending well of great jazz-world stories), it feels like they’re just flipping through their record collection and spontaneously playing favorite numbers with no plan whatsoever. It feels so improvised that sometimes you get three versions of the same song all in a row, just because John and Jess want to compare them.
Some choices are usual-suspecty, heavy-duty famous (they go deep on Ella and Sondheim), some featured folks are newer on the scene and sure to open up a thousand rabbit holes, and some fall in between. And here’s the great news, the big kicker, the cat’s meow (give it two episodes and you’ll talk like this too): You’re three hundred-plus episodes behind. That’s basically six hundred hours of music’s crème de la crème you’ve got ahead of you. Just try not to jazz-snap your fingerprints off.
PS New episodes are broadcast on good old-fashioned radio stations—but not nearly enough of them. Each week’s new episode is also posted weekly on the Radio Deluxe site, where you can find the aforementioned one billion hours of listening delight.