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Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo: Swing Zing!

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Where precisely does swing give way to zing on this collection of mostly guitar duets? Look no further than those performances that demand virtuosic technique from veteran guitarist Frank Vignola and his well-matched compatriots. Vignola and fellow guitarist Vinny Raniolo, his longtime duo mate in a stage show that matches fretboard fireworks with cabaret charm, are equal to task, and the several guest artists add both zest and soulfulness to a procession of familiar and not-so-familiar tunes. Nowhere is that more evident than when Finnish guitarist Olli Soikkeli adds to the propulsive thrust that makes “Joseph Joseph” such a rousing showstopper.

Some of the album’s most engaging performances, though, are unhurried and unabashedly sentimental, including a take on “All the Things You Are” that dreamily features vocalist Audra Muriel, bassist Gary Mazzaroppi and the great jazz guitar elder Bucky Pizzarelli. The album’s closer, a strolling, Bucky-abetted medley of “Peg O’ My Heart” and “I’m Confessin’,” is similarly pitched. “Whispering,” which features Gene Bertoncini on nylon-string guitar, is far more spirited and intricately arranged, and yet it’s a wonderfully melodic treat all the same. Rising-star guitarist Julian Lage turns up, too, playing lead on a warmly evocative rendition of “Sleepy Time Gal,” with Vignola on rhythm. Then Vignola is out front again, adding fresh luster to “Stardust” and all the zing he and Raniolo can muster to a compelling medley of “Tico Tico” and “Djangomania.”

Originally Published