Jazzman Bucky Pizzarelli, Frequent Performer in Eugene, Died of COVID-19

The jazzman was a regular at the Oregon Festival of American Music

Courtesy The Shedd Institute

New York jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who for more than a decade was a regular performer at The Shedd Institute in Eugene, died in New Jersey April 1 of COVID-19. He was 94.

The New York Times reported his death April 2.

Pizzarelli spent decades as a little-known session player in New York in the 1950s and ’60s, playing often uncredited on recordings with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan, The Times noted, and later with The Tonight Show band, before he began to perform solo in Manhattan jazz clubs. He also played for two decades with Benny Goodman.

Pizzarelli was on stage at The Shedd for the first time in 2000, brought to Eugene by another jazz icon, Dick Hyman, who was in those days jazz advisor for The Shedd’s Oregon Festival of American Music.

For the next 12 years he would become a regular at the summer jazz fest, often bringing his son, guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli, who continues to perform in Eugene.

Jim Ralph, artistic director at The Shedd, says Bucky Pizzarelli was “a class act and a hoot.”

“And he always demanded Ovaltine in the dressing room!”

Pizzarelli’s final performance in Eugene was in 2012, Ralph says, adding that the jazzman’s health had been declining in recent years.

“Bucky was a class act beginning to end,” Ralph says. “A fine guitarist, an absolute character and always the gentleman. We’re really going to miss him.”

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