As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like deja vu all over again.” Or in this case, Deja Vu
times four, as guitarist Frank Vignola includes four brief but dissimilar versions of David Crosby’s composition on his newest Concord Vista release. Like the other songs presented here, they are aimed squarely at the “smooth Jazz” market — in other words, nothing to inflame the senses, nor to ruffle the feathers. Tempos are moderate, rhythmic patterns well–defined, improvisations clear–cut and utterly predictable. Taken in small doses, Vignola’s music is moderately pleasant. In larger amounts, it can anesthetize one’s brain and cause the eyes to glaze over. On the bright side, an almost certain cure for insomnia (as, of course, is most “smooth” or “light” Jazz). Besides “Déjà Vu,” Vignola places his “contemporary” spin on works by Carole King (“It’s Too Late”), Bob Marley (“I Shot the Sheriff”), John Lennon (“Imagine”), Sting (“Walkin’ on the Moon”), Elvis Costello (“Alison”) and even Chick Corea (“Spain”), among others, and manages somehow to make them sound almost interchangeable (which, I’d guess, is the whole idea behind the lowest–common–denominator “smooth Jazz” movement). I’ve nothing against Vignola; he’s obviously a talented musician in his own way. But I can’t honestly say that I find the music he plays the least bit inspiring or even engaging — a minority opinion, it would appear, as “smooth Jazz” continues its advance toward an inexorable takeover of the country’s Jazz radio outlets. No matter what written roadblocks old–liners like myself endeavor to place in their path, Vignola and his peers will laugh last and deposit the largest checks.