There are a lot of great guitarists plying their trade as 6 string gunslingers these days, in every musical genre from rock to pop, classical to folk, from metal to jazz. A world of talent to choose from, and enough diversity to cover the globe and reach out to the heavens! Back in the time before ipods and cell phones, when vinyl ruled the world, three supremely gifted guitarists recorded and toured the world as good-will ambassadors of sound, calling themselves “The Great Guitars”. Charlie Byrd, Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis. ……and truly great they were, as anyone who ever saw of knew them can attest! ( myself included) Alas, these giants are no longer with us. Today, we have a new generation assuming the roles, and (deservedly so) the title of “The Great Guitars”. Peppino D’Agostino, Vinny Raniolo, Martin Taylor and Frank Vignola. These four monsters of the guitar tradition have filled the very large shoes of their mentors and inspirations and filled them with grace and a musical verve equal to the originals. They proved their mettle at a recent concert sponsored by the Levine School of Music held at The Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D.C. on a warm spring evening and set the stage on fire with fretwork that stunned the ears and eyes, from the sublime to the incendiary.
Martin & Peppino
Vinny, Frank, Martin & Peppino
Tearing it up with Vinny & Frank
Martin, how do you do that?
The Great Guitars
The very gifted, Martin Taylor
No one can accuse guitarist Frank Vignola of standing still, either physically or musically. As he aptly demonstrated on Friday at both a student clinic and concert at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, Vignola is a dervish- a human whirlwind whose creative mind and flying fingers sometimes have trouble keeping up with the laws of physics.
A native New Yorker, Frank brought his distinctive wit and charm to bear at an afternoon clinic sponsored by the school to a packed house, including the talented young members of the AACC Small Jazz Combo, who wrapped up the class with their rendition of “Limehouse Blues”.
Vignola shared the floor with the equally fiery playing of longtime musical partner Vinny Raniolo as well as relative newcomer Glenn Tosto, the three musicians demonstrating to the audience of enthralled students what a musical conversation sounded like in the hands of three masters.
The clinic was followed by a packed-house public concert in the college’s Humanities Theater. Demonstrating the technical skill and blistering speed for which he is rightly noted, Vignola ripped up the fretboard on signature set-pieces “Tico Tico” and “Flight of the Bumblebee”, but kept things joyful and light with tunes like “My Blue Heaven”, “How High the Moon” and a sing along to the Roberta Flack hit “Killing Me Softly”. Frank, Vinny and Glenn’s performance reminded the audience that every memorable musician is not just a virtuoso, but an entertainer as well, peppering their show with lively stage banter, choreography and intimate audience interaction as well. If you left this concert without a smile on your face, well, you were just born a grump!
Frank also included a brief musical tribute to old friend and local Annapolis resident, the humble and beloved bassist Joe Byrd, who was sadly killed in a car crash earlier in the week. The bossa medley was a fitting tribute to a musician who, with his brother Charlie Byrd, helped introduce America to a wonderful music style in the early 1960s.
Yes, Frank Vignola is a perpetual motion machine! 200+ days on the road every year, and showing no signs of slowing down. He’ll be back in the D.C. area at the fabled Blues Alley jazz club for shows on Wed., March 14 with Vinny and Glenn, then off to yet another show, reaching out to yet another hall of smiling and amazed eyes and ears. And, lest we don’t get enough of his talent this time around, we can always take comfort in the knowledge that Frank, and many of his musical friends, will be coming to a PBS station for a television special in the near future. So sit back, open up your ears, and prepare to be amazed!
Lindsay Hammon (sax) Jason Barteck (guitar) Michael Busch (guitar) Matt Henry (bass) Scott Taber (drums) With Special Thanks to Ian Wardenski for making the evening so memorable and pleasant!
FRANK VIGNOLA VINNY RANIOLO GLENN TOSTO