Frank Vignola
"Vignola plays Gershwin"

(Mel Bay Records)
Vignola plays Gershwin

Review by Brad Walseth

Full of vim and vigor, s'wonderful to hear this recording of incredible guitarist Frank Vignola's take on 14 Gershwin classics. George Gershwin's reputation as perhaps the finest American "songwriter" of the last century is certainly well-deserved, and his repertoire fills the pages of jazz fakebooks everywhere. Just listen to some of the titles on this release: "I Got Rhythm," "Summertime," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "The Man I Love," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "Fascinating Rhythm," "Embraceable You," "Lady Be Good," How Long Has This Been Going On," "But Not For Me." With material this good you can hardly go wrong (although one of these songs is probably being butchered by some well-meaning lounge singer somewhere in the world even as I type), but having these fabulous songs presented by such a talented and understanding guitarist as Frank Vignola is an added treat. Vignola is respectful of the melodies while giving them his own personal twist and the result is a fresh and engaging album of high-spirited, old-school jazz music.

Vignola has released 12 CDs as a band leader and has appeared on countless others as a much-in demand sideman. He draws from a wide range of musical styles and you can hear glimpses of Django, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, and Bucky Pizzarrelli in his output. But he is also a fan of rock music and players like Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton and Frank Zappa - and a little rock and roll enthusiasm seems to creep into his style as well. His work with Newgrass mandolin picker David "Dawg" Grisman also seems to influenced his playing technique which is clean and blazing fast. But despite his amazingly fast licks, Vignola always keeps the melody in the forefront and that is the key to his success.

Backed by a crack band featuring Joe Ascione on drums, bassist Tom Kennedy and 2nd guitarist Corey Christiansen (MB3), the quartet recorded all 14 songs in what must have been a single deliriously good 4 hour session, and the overall feel is one of relaxed comraderie and flowing excitement. The positive energy exuded by the songs and through the snappy performances of the musicians involved is palpable, and takes the listener careening joyfully down the sunny side of the musical street. There are simply too many highlights to list, but keep your ears open for the jaunty version of "Strike Up The Band" and a cha-cha "Somebody Loves Me." Throughout, Vignola's sidemen provide devoted support, while Vignola's solos are as light and invigorating as golden sunshine in the morning. Highly recommended for fans of Gershwin, jazz guitar or anyone just needing a reason to smile.

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