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Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo: Swing Zing!

Jack Bowers By

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When a press release accompanying a new album conveys more information than is found on the album itself, the supposition must be that it was recorded hurriedly with an eye toward a similarly expeditious release. Swing Zing! pairs the estimable guitarists Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, who've been working together for more than five years, with half a dozen guests who are identified on the album (and in the press release) by name but not by instrument. Three of them—Bucky Pizzarelli, Julian Lage and Gene Bertoncini—are definitely guitarists. At least one of the others—Olli Soikkeli, Audra Mariel, Gary Mazzaroppi—must be a bassist, or doubles on it, as a bass seems to be present on several tracks. On the other hand, it could be a bass guitar or even a regular guitar played as a deep-throated rhythm instrument, a la Freddie Green. Sure sounds like a bass, though.

It's clear that Mariel is a vocalist, as she sings (quite well) on the Jerome Kern standard "All the Things You Are." As Mazzaroppi is also listed on that track, perhaps he's the mystery bassist (there's a photo inside the album cover of someone playing bass but he isn't identified by name). The problem is, Mazzaroppi's not noted as present on the other numbers that seem to include a bass including the upbeat opener, Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek." Soikkeli sits in on "Joseph Joseph," Bertoncini on "Whispering," Lage on "Sleepy Time Gal," Pizzarelli on "All the Things" and the closing medley, "Peg O' My Heart" / "I'm Confessin.'" The solo order for any of the tracks is not given, nor is there any hint as to the speaker (left or right) through which anyone can be recognized. We are told that Lage plays the lead, Vignola the rhythm on "Sleepy Time Gal" and (for some reason) that Pizzarelli plays a 1947 D'Angelico. Otherwise, as all guitars sound basically alike to some people (not mentioning any names), that makes any individual appraisals rather improbable.

Suffice to say that everyone on the album acquits himself (or herself) well, leaving no room for complaint about the music itself aside from the fact that it is rather guitar-heavy. For those who appreciate the sound of a well-strummed guitar, that should pose no problem. As for the swing quotient, it remains fairly high throughout, reaching its apex on the medley of "Tico Tico" and "Djangomania," taken at breakneck speed by Vignola and Raniolo. Elsewhere, the music is time-tested and should be familiar to most listeners, comprising as it does "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "September Song," "Cry Me a River," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" and "Stardust." No surprises there.

In spite of the lack of information offered, Swing Zing! is an enjoyable album of guitar-soaked jazz that should please fans of the instrument in general and the Vignola / Raniolo tandem in particular.

Track Listing: Cheek to Cheek; The Best Things in Life Are Free; September Song; Cry Me a River; Joseph Joseph; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; All the Things You Are; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; Whispering; Sleepy Time Gal; Stardust; Tico Tico / Djangomania; Peg O’ My Heart / I’m Confessin’.

Personnel: Frank Vignola: guitar; Vinny Raniolo: guitar; Special guests – Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar; Olli Soikkeli: guitar; Julian Lage: guitar; Gene Bertoncini: guitar; Audra Mariel: guitar; Gary Mazzaroppi: guitar.

Title: Swing Zing! | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Fv Records

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