Frank Vignola–Vinny Raniolo: Swing Zing!
Frank Vignola on Thorell FV Model Guitar
Vinny Raniolo on Collings Flat Top Guitar
Bucky Pizzarelli on 1947 D’Angelico Guitar
Gene Bertoncini on Acoustic Nylon String Guitar
Julian Lage on Guitar
Olli Soikkeli on Guitar
Gary Mazzaroppi on Acoustic Bass
Audra Mariel on Vocals
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 8, 2016
This CD offers a quintessential listening experience, with stunning guitar duos by Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. This duo, individually renowned as soloists, has performed around the globe. On selected tracks, Vignola and Raniolo showcase their guests, Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Bertoncini (both widely reviewed on these pages), Julian Lage, and Olli Soikkeli, all on guitars, Audra Mariel on vocals, and Gary Mazzaroppi on bass. You won’t be able to leave a track without listening to it again, each is so spellbinding and evocative. This music is nurturing, in the intrinsic familiarity of the melodies and motifs and in the emotional poignancy of the arrangements and performances. No two songs are arranged alike, with some rambunctious, playful duos, exuding Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France, and generous featured solos (one vocal) with lush, whispering, rhythmic backup. It was almost impossible to choose four of the thirteen tracks, below, as each is so riveting and transporting.
#3 – September Song – Composed by K. Weill. This 1938 ballad is performed by Vignola and Raniolo, with Frank playing the eloquent lead on a singing string and Vinny playing backup. Soon they switch, with Vinny shifting keys and making the theme glow, in the rhythmic echoes. Vignola plays out the track, but what’s significant is the luminosity of the performance, harnessing the melancholy meanings in this renowned ballad.
#7 – All the Things You Are – Composed by R.J. Kern. What a delight to discover the vocalist, Audra Mariel, who sings with unrushed, songbird sensuality. Her sensitive rendition of this Kern ballad is expanded with the lush accompaniment of Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and the infamous Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar. There’s a nightclub aura inherent in this track, as Ms. Mariel rivets the listener in the moment.
#9 – Whispering – Composed by F. DeLong / F. Rose. The incredible guitarist, Gene Bertoncini appears on this track, sitting in with the album’s duo, on acoustic nylon string guitar. His nylon guitar literally whispers throughout, as Vignola and Raniolo harmonize with their own melodic phrases. It’s tracks like this, spotlighting tonal solitude, that speak to the virtuosity of the album’s musical cast.
#12 – Tico Tico / Djangomania – Composed by Abreu / Vignola. This track on its own is worth the album, with the 1917, Brazilian choro tune played by Vignola and Raniolo, first in the familiar, catchy theme, and later in dual lightning rounds, evocative of Django Reinhardt. Vignola’s first Django version is dervishly wild and frenzied, and Raniolo’s second Django version merges with vivacity and verve. I had associated this tune with the Andrews Sisters’ rendition, but now Vignola and Raniolo have raised the bar.