Erica Miller
Frank Vignola

Frank Vignola

I'm trying to remember exactly how long ago it was that I first saw Frank Vignola wow the crowd with some of the fastest yet cleanest picking there is around. I do recall it was at a performance presented by what is now The Connecticut Guitar Society. Billed as "The Legends of Jazz" it featured four guitarists, none of whom I had heard of before. By that time I had studied classical guitar for many years but had never really developed a feel or understanding for jazz guitar nor had I become familiar with any of even the better known jazz guitarists. So my first real introduction to the guitar as a jazz instrument came from this Legends performance at the hands of Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Bertoncini,. Howard Alden and this kid that more than held his own against all these obviously experienced, meaning way older, guitar players. Yes, this was Frank Vignola. Unknown to me till I read the Wiki page that by that time he had already done work for Leon Redbone, Madonna and Ringo Starr. He recently added Donald Fagen to his extensive list of credits by contributing several solo tracks for Donald's "Morph the Cat" CD which is a fine piece of work. If it was vinyl I would have worn the grooves off of it by now. He has also just completed a tour with Wynton Marsalis.

So if I guessed I'd have to say the Legends concert took place 2000-ish which would put him in around the age of 35 back then. So I guess he wasn't exactly a kid but he's one of those guys who apparently doesn't age regardless of how much time passes by. Anyhow, to be honest, I was not all that "jazzed" by the old time jazz stuff. I deeply apologize to all the jazz guitar afficiandos for my obvious affliction. My developing of an interest was to take place over time but this Frank kid that spent his time just screaming his way all over the fretboard really caught my eye. I knew he was one that was going places. Not only was he fast, but it all made sense! I've seen many a fast player but in a majority of cases it would be fast for fast's sake and out of context musically. Frank does not have this problem.

So fast forward to about 8 years where Frank, now accompanied by his trio friends Vinny Raniolo and Gary Mazzaroppi, makes his return to us during the same Summer Jazz series Gene had played. By then the spark for the CD had already been growing and right then I knew I had to have Frank in on it. Plus, there was , Vinny Raniolo, who at the age of about 23 was standing next to Frank going note for note with him. Yup, I had to get Vinny in there too. Fast forward another year or so at a Guitar Society Christmas get together, who should make a surprise appearance but, yes, the Frank Vignola Trio and it was there the opportunity arose for me to ask them to participate in this little pet project I had dreamed up. They both enthusiastically agreed which was like a clouds opening up, sun streaming through, angels start singing moment..

The track "Georgia On My Mind" was the very first track recorded for the CD. Rickie had just turned 22. After discussions with Frank we decided it was best to meet him at Bennett Studios in Englewood NJ. Look at it this way, Frank Vignola asks you if you want to go to Bennett Studios and have Tony Bennett's son Dae engineer the recording. What would you say? When we walked into Dae's studio the first things I saw were the five Grammys and the Emmy on the shelf in his office. I immediately knew I was in the right place. Dae has recently picked up his sixth Grammy (2010) along with Johnnie Truesdale's first for a recording they did titled "The Crow", a bluegrass project featuring Steve Martin on banjo.

As with all the tracks I let the musicians take the lead and in less than two hours Frank and Rickie, having never met or rehearsed together before, produced a very enjoyable piece of music. So here we find Rickie, at the age of 22, cutting her teeth at Bennett Studios with Dae Bennett engineering and Frank Vignola accompanying her on guitar. Does it get much better than that? Meanwhile, I did my best to stay out of the way and not get in trouble with Dae or Frank. In the end we decided no bass would be necessary on this one. It was also at this session that Frank suggested bringing Bucky and Gene into the project at which time it began to take on the star studded appearance of the final result. Frank later went on to organize the session with Gene, Bucky and Vinny as well as put in the good word for me with Ed Laub and Gary Mazzaroppi. Again it was like, Frank Vignola asks you, "You want to use these guys?" what are you going to say? Frank's enthusiasm and behind the scenes work helped take the project from a strictly local production of limited note to one of a national if not international scope. His assistance was invaulable. Check the various buttons for more information on Frank, his upcoming schedule and purchase some of his many CDs.

Please browse the site for more info on the project and the artists involved.

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