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Vinny Raniolo: Air Guitar

Dan Bilawsky By

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Now here's something that brings fresh meaning to the idea of an artist piloting an album. Virtuoso guitarist and avid aviator Vinny Raniolo uses his debut leader date as an opportunity to fly the friendly skies, putting his ax to good use on an aerial-themed program with a pleasantly straightforward outlook.

While Raniolo has come to be known for his associations with other skilled six-stringers—Tommy Emmanuel, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Frank Vignola, to cite three—he doesn't take one on as a copilot for this venture. Instead he turns to bassist Elias Bailey, and together they remind us how many classics move skyward in their stories and/or metaphoric trajectories.

This nimble duo wastes no time in getting down to business in the fun and familiar. An appropriately happy-go-lucky "Come Fly With Me" sets the scene while saluting 'Ol Blue Eyes and conjuring thoughts of a carefree lifestyle. Then a parade of chestnuts follows—a "Flying Down To Rio" that's tight and lighthearted, a "Blue Skies" that moves from a mellow tempo to Mach 2, a "Leaving On A Jet Plane" with an island tinge, and two more handfuls of volitant vehicles.

While Raniolo impresses on the burners, they're not his only strength; the ballads in the mix—numbers like "Stardust" and "Skylark"—tend to please in equal proportions. With some of these selections the guitarist automatically points toward his instrumental forefathers—Charlie Christian through "Air Mail Special," Django Reinhardt with "Nuages"—but he doesn't ape them. He's simply absorbed what those masters created, a fact that's evident in the way his agile fingers do their work. And with Bailey walking lines with quick steps, providing vitality through solos, moving in tandem with Raniolo, and adding musical retorts, another layer of sophistication emerges in this music.

Once this duo establishes its m.o., it holds that course straight on to the horizon. It's a line toward a single and specific sight, but what a beautiful vista it is. Raniolo and Bailey are all class, and this album makes that case again and again.

Track Listing: Come Fly With Me; Flying Down To Rio; Blue Skies; Leaving On A Jet Plane; Test Pilot; Airmail Special; Stardust; Fly Me To The Moon; Flying Home; Nuages; Volare; Let's Fly Away; East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon); Come Josephine In My Flying Machine.

Personnel: Vinny Raniolo: guitar; Elias Bailey: bass.

Title: Air Guitar | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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