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July/August 2004

Frank and Joe Show
33 1/3
Hyena

The Frank and Joe of the Frank and Joe Show are guitarist Frank Vignola and drummer Joe Ascione, who make their debut with 33 1/3 (Hyena). With this recording, the pair reference a fading medium-there is the title, and then the recording itself, a snappy 37 minutes long, split neatly into sides 1 and 2-and also a distant era. The Frank and Joe Show wants to recall the sort of wartime radio variety show vibe where pop and jazz shared formats on friendly terms. While Vignola and Ascione have adapted the program to their own interests-in place of big band swoon there is small group swing and occasional Caribbean breeze-the variety show template survives intact: the solos never go on for too long, and musicianship fills in the spaces between novelty tunes and winking vocal numbers.

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Frank Vignola and Joe Ascione

It's a nice try, but the gimmick sinks it. Too often, the music sounds manufactured for tourists, as with Jane Monheit's breathless "Besame Mucho" or the self-consciously stylized period piece "Don't Fence Me In," which features a multitracked Janis Siegel. Between the vocal numbers, Frank and Joe rocket through goofball throwaways like "Flight of the Bumblebee" or the theme from the 1960s cartoon Spider-Man. Though he shares top billing, Joe Ascione's madcap pummeling (with what sounds like knitting needles) never really breaks through the schmaltz. Vignola, on the other hand, sneaks in some little gems here and there. On his solo turn, a set closer rendition of "Stardust," the guitarist flashes some roguish Django Reinhardt charm to go along with the Hot Club technique, but by then it's too late.

Originally published in July/August 2004
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