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If you were in New York City some Sunday night and you should chance to wander by the nightclub Sweet Rhythm, you would experience a musical happening of ever-increasing proportions. There, guitarist Frank Vignola, percussionist Joe Ascione, and "their merry band of music makers" hold court for an ever-expanding group of devotees. What makes these events noteworthy is the breadth of different musical dialects spoken: gypsy swing, breezy island melodies, cowboy kitsch, Latin and Spanish-tinged evergreensor should I say cacti?and jazz and pop standards coexist in a rhythmic mélange as ageless as amphora, and as trendy as tomorrow.
Record producer Joel Dorn has brought this ensemble into the studio for their debut album, a sampler that ranges from Cole Porter and Harold Arlen to a comic book hero's theme; from Mozart and Rimsky-Korsakoff to the Doobie Brothers; from Gilbert O'Sullivan to Hoagy Carmichael. The result is a very listenable, but not particularly jazzy recording, one that plays to the considerable interest in gypsy swing that exists today. While lacking the excitement of a live performance, it nonetheless sparkles with consistent virtuoso musicianship and good humor. For instance, I was about to get indignant over the simplistic harmonization of the bridge of "Paper Moon," when I heard the music segue into "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," and I realized the joke was on me. And if you pay full retail price for this album without realizing it is only 37 minutes long, the joke will be on you.
Track Listing: Begin The Beguine; Don't Fence Me In; Tico Tico; Mozart Jam; Sheik Of Araby; Sweet Rhythm; Besame Mucho; Spiderman; Paper Moon; Long Train Runnin'; Alone Again Naturally; Flight Of The Bumblebee;
Personnel: Frank Vignola (guitar), Joe Ascione (percussion).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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