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05/15/13

Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo
Melody Magic
Azica Records

Melody Magic may not boast as high a profile as Frank Vignola’s pairings with Les Paul or Tommy Emmanuel or David Grisman, but this collaboration with fellow guitarist Vinny Raniolo offers similar rewards.

By Vignola’s reckoning, the two have shared the stage a thousand times, and the chemistry they’ve developed over the years is evident on every track here, from the opening nod to Beethoven’s Fifth to the rhythmically insinuating closer, Sting’s “Walking on the Moon.” Between these bookends, you’ll find a fancifully eclectic range of tunes, all but one imaginatively recast by Vignola. Indeed, for all his widely acclaimed talents as a player and improviser, it’s Vignola’s gift for arranging familiar pieces in fresh and often surprising ways that makes Melody Magic so engaging.

In Raniolo, Vignola has found a delightful match, a rhythm partner and foil who clearly shares his wide-ranging tastes. Yet this is no two-man show. In addition to a lovely, crisply executed duet salute to Lennon and McCartney, tunefully devised by Emmanuel, there are five trio performances of classical tunes that benefit from the presence and resonance of Mark Egan’s bass guitar. Other performances find the headliners fronting quartets and quintets that variously feature accordionist Julien Labro, violinist Zach Brock and double bassists Cassidy Holden and Matt Wigdon. True, some of the pop choices seem dubious—“Dust in the Wind” and “Eye of the Tiger”—but no matter: Vignola’s interpretations inspire vibrant ensemble takes.

Originally published in May 2013
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