Monday, October 3, 2011

Frank Vignola

I was lucky enough to see the great Frank Vignola in concert recently. Frank is a genuine virtuoso - one has to be, to hang with monsters like Andreas Oberg and Tommy Emmanuel, and oh yeah, Les Paul. Frank can play blazing jazz solos but also has a huge chord vocabulary and is very expressive and melodic. This goes hand in hand with his obvious appreciation of many styles of music, as evidenced by his setlist at the show. There was some traditional jazz standards ("How High The Moon"); bebop ("Oleo"); tributes to jazz legend Django Reinhardt ("Nuages", "Swing 42"); jazzy versions of pop classics like "Killing Me Softly"; and even some classic rock with "Walking on the Moon" by the Police.

Most remarkable though was a great selection of classical pieces, impeccably performed even as he reinterpreted them with jazzy flair. There was Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade"; Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez"; and yes even "Flight of the Bumblebee." An incredibly challenging and diverse set! To top it off, Frank and his band-mates (two more guitarists) played with flair, warmth and a definite sense of humor. I really appreciated how they reached out and brought in the audience with singing, banter, even slapstick, but most of all a clear respect and dedication to melody.

Frank plays a hollow-body guitar that recalls the traditional sound of classic jazz guitar, but with a very unique tone - not surprising considering he plays a beautiful hand-made instrument, custom built by Thorell Guitars. Frank's sound is mellow but very clear. This complements his style - he plays with amazing technical precision, but is also very dynamic and expressive.

It is a rare treat to hear a band with nothing but guitar players in it. The absence of bass and drums was not a problem; their sense of rhythm, timing and interplay was absolutely impeccable, yet they kept it relaxed, and quite often swinging.  Kudos to Frank's frequent partner Vinnie Raniolo for doing a darn good job of keeping up with Frank, and Glenn Tosto (of Gypsy Jazz Caravan) for holding up the rhythm end of things.

The setting was Germano's - -  a fine restaurant in Baltimore's Little Italy, which features a cabaret setting upstairs and hosts live music as much as four nights a week. Crystal and I had a great time with my friend and student Steve and his wife Becky. What a delight to eat wonderful food, enjoy good company, and listen to some of the best musicians on the planet.

Check out Frank at
Learn more about Thorell guitars at

Here's a clip of Frank and Vinnie playing "Tico Tico," another song they did at the show. Enjoy!

Pics by Crystal


  1. Thanks for your article! Here is more on Frank Vignola and his guitar:

    Many Videos with Frank playing:

  2. Sorry the second link for Frank's videos:

  3. Thanks Ryan! It was great to hear Frank playing your guitar, it sounded terrific. There's nothing better than hearing a superb instrument in the hands of a great musician.