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Frank Vignola: Deja Vu

Ed Kopp By

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Here's a talented young guitarist who probably hasn't sold as much product as his label would like. So the label conceives of a concept album aimed at boomers and fuzak lovers. And what do graying boomers and fuzak lovers want? Jazz-lite versions of classic rock and pop songs.

Frank Vignola has gone smooth on us. This is a disappointing development given that Vignola's last release, Look Right, Jog Left, was a very satisfying fusion effort.

I'll admit that some of these rock-to-jazz projects are likable (check out Fareed Haque's own Deja Vu ), but most are lamentable. Frank Vignola's Deja Vu is mostly the latter.

As smooth jazz goes, this CD is OK. Vignola's guitar work is fiery and bluesy, and the tunes are pleasantly funky and reassuringly familiar. But with the strings-like background synths, occasional electronic beats, unobtrusive drums, and sentimental tinkling chimes, Deja Vu is aptly titled: we've been here before, and too many times.

There are a couple of tunes here that I might dub onto a cassette to lighten the mood. For instance, the version of Cream's "White Room" is likably George Benson-ish, and Carol King's "It's Too Late" works well in a pop-jazz context. But most of this CD is Prozac for the ears. The insipid vocal chorus on Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" spoils a nice guitar solo. The drum programming on Chick Corea's "Spain" is annoying. Other tunes covered include Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You," John Lennon's "Imagine," Sting's "Walking On The Moon," Elvis Costello's "Alison," and Kansas's "Dust In The Wind."

You really can't blame Vignola or Concord for trying to make a few bucks, but here's hoping Deja Vu buys Frank Vignola a more challenging project next time around.

Title: Déjà Vu | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Original Jazz Classics

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