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Johnny Frigo: Summer Me! Live At Battle Ground

A decade or more ago, in his twilight years, violinist Johnny Frigo was in such demand that he probably didn’t have a lot of vacation time. But after listening to Summer Me, a 15-track compilation drawn from concert performances at the Indiana Fiddlers Gathering between 1985 and 1997, it seems likely that Frigo viewed his performances at the festival as a chance to relax and recharge.

Certainly Frigo didn’t have to worry about his accompanists: mandolinist Dan Stiernberg, banjoist Greg Cahill, guitarist John Parrott and bassist Jim Cox. In addition to consistently providing crisp support, they often add the kind of nuanced touches that you’d expect to hear from a band that toured extensively with Frigo. These performances are entirely the product of brief encounters, and though some of them are unrehearsed, it’s a treat to hear both Frigo and Stiernberg spinning melodic variations on “Pick Yourself Up,” “I’ll Remember April” and other favorites without so much as a hitch. The uptempo tracks are nicely offset by a few ballads, including “Here’s That Rainy Day,” that showcase Frigo’s singing tone and Cox’s resonating bass.

Djangophiles and Ellington fans will find plenty to enjoy here, as will fans of David Grisman’s “Dawg music,” not least because Frigo sounds so young at heart, inspired by the tunes, the setting and the “high class audience.” No doubt we will be seeing more posthumous releases from the violinist, who died last year. Here’s hoping they’re as engaging as this one.

Originally Published