The first Boston Pops Jazz Fest got underway Tuesday night with a mild snag. Conductor Keith Lockhart, in a hurry to get to jazz's first great composer, recited his introductory spiel on Jelly Roll Morton and announced Morton's ``Black Bottom Stomp," raised his arms to cue the orchestra . . . and realized he'd forgotten something.
Lockhart turned back to the audience and smiled. ``I forgot a piece," he said. ``These things happen." He instead launched the orchestra into John Williams's swing tribute ``Swing, Swing, Swing.'
From that point on, the festival opener swung along smoothly. The Pops orchestra played a fine set alone that showed why early jazz deserves respect from the classical world. Then John Pizzarelli brought his quartet out to join the orchestra and further upped the evening's already impressive swing quotient.
The Morton piece, when Lockhart got to it, gave the audience its one hint of Dixie, and it was followed by Don Sebesky's adaptation of George Gershwin's ``Prelude No. 2," the night's most classical-sounding work. The Pops's principal clarinetist, Thomas Martin, then flashed his considerable chops on Artie Shaw's ``Clarinet Concerto."
Pizzarelli led his set off with ``Pick Yourself Up," which set the tone nicely by coupling his soft, insouciant tenor voice with solid instrumental solos from his pianist, Larry Fuller, and himself -- Pizzarelli scatting in unison with his rapid-fire guitar lines. Other highlights included Pizzarelli's burning guitar solo on ``Avalon," which he followed by mouthing ``That's my brother" to the audience as Martin Pizzarelli played a bass solo. Frank Loesser's ``Say It Over and Over Again" had Pizzarelli's tenor floating over lush orchestration.
Pizzarelli's biggest round of applause came for a snippet of ``The Wonder of It All," the casino theme that made him famous, into which he put lines such as ``Yes, I am that guy" and ``residuals are sweet." The orchestra ended the evening with ``Stars and Stripes Forever."