March 1, 2024

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An extremely versatile jazz guitarist, Frank Vignola has demonstrated: Video

30.12. – Happy Birthday !!! An extremely versatile jazz guitarist, Frank Vignola has demonstrated that he is capable of playing everything from fusion and commercial pop-jazz to hard bop, post-bop, and swing. The native New Yorker has a wide variety of influences; everyone from Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and Pat Metheny to Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian has affected his playing in some way.

For Vignola, different influences have asserted themselves at different times — the Reinhardt or Christian influence might be especially prominent in a swing environment, whereas he has sometimes sounded more Metheny-ish in fusion or jazz/NAC settings. And he might be mindful of Montgomery or Pass on a hard bop or post-bop project. Born on suburban Long Island on December 30, 1965, Vignola was raised in the New York area. The Italian-American started playing the guitar at the age of five and grew up admiring a variety of guitarists. Far from a jazz snob, Vignola never listened to jazz exclusively and was also a major fan of rock, RB, and pop. The guitarists that he admired ranged from jazz musicians to rock icons like Eric Clapton and Eddie Van Halen. As a young adult, Vignola studied at the Cultural Arts Center of Long Island and went on to enjoy a lot of sideman gigs in the 1980s. The New Yorker was 27 when, in 1993, he signed with Concord Jazz and recorded his first Concord session as a leader, Appel Direct. Several more Concord releases followed in the 1990s, and the early 2000s found Vignola recording for Nagel-Heyer as well as Acoustic Disc.

Currently Frank has been extremely busy with a variety of projects including MaMaVig, a trio featuring mandolin virtuoso Jamie Masefield of The Jazz Mandolin Project, Gary Mazzaroppi the formidable bass player, and Frank. They play a unique blend of gypsy grass in the style of Django Reinhardt and take it to a whole other level. The name MaMaVig is a merging of their last names.

Frank has also been investing some time into Frank Vignola’s Gypsy Grass Collective featuring a rotating roster of supreme players featuring some of the acoustic music scene’s hottest young players. Melding contemporary gypsy jazz, bluegrass, toe-tapping swing and front porch picking into a uniquely eclectic, upbeat sound of their own, Gypsy Grass is sure to amaze fans of the various styles and genres it employs. At times sublime, controlled and elegant, these innovators can instantly change gears to wildly imaginative improvisation and nasty, hot picking. Think Django Reinhardt meets Jerry Reed with some flashes of Bach and Miles Davis…

“Frank Vignola is the perfect guitarist really. He knows every chord under the sun, he can drive the rhythm so hard that you really don’t need any more of a rhythm section practically for anything. And then when he begins his solos, one knows immediately that the music making is on the highest plane….Frank is a soloist to the very extreme limits that you would assume a solist could ever be, a genuine virtuoso.” ~Mark O’Connor …This is why Frank Vignola is one of the most sought after acoustic guitarists on the planet. In addition to Mark O’Connor, he has toured and recorded with the likes of Madonna, Elton John, Ringo Starr, Les Paul, Lionel Hampton, Donald Fagen, Queen Latifah, David Grisman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, Gene Bertoncini and many more. He recorded for Concord Jazz and Hyena Records before forming his own label in 2006. Frank also performs with MaMaVig, featuring Jamie Masefield (Jazz Mandolin Project) on mandolin and Gary Mazzaroppi.

Casey Driessen’s debut solo album, 3D (Sugar Hill Records), is up for a Grammy. This 27 year old phenomenon started young with Suzuki lessons and instruction and guidance from the likes of Darol Anger and Vassar Clements. This led to sharing the stage and studio with folks that he grew up listening to like Steve Earle, Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Béla Fleck and Lee Ann Womack. He has even recorded with John Mayer and can be heard on the soundtrack to the Johnny Cash movie Walk the Line. Driessen has toured China on an embassy sponsored excursion, and tours regularly with his own band of rotating characters, The Colorfools.

“Casey Driessen is someone who may, before he is done playing, change the way the fiddle is used and thought of, as much as someone like Jimi Hendrix did with the guitar or Bela Fleck with the banjo.” ~Acoustic Music

One of the best contemporary instrumentalists in the field of folk or bluegrass, Matt Flinner has played with Jerry Douglas, Darol Anger, Stuart Duncan, the Trischkas, Tim and Mollie O’Brien, Sally Van Meter and the group Sugarbeat, and has released his own solo albums for the CompassRecords label. At first a banjo prodigy, he later made the move to mandolin. However, Flinner remained proficient on both instruments, winning the coveted Winfield National Championships for banjo in 1990, then again the following year for mandolin.

“Flinner provides the next logical evolutionary step to David Grisman’s unique dawg style, and does it with a nod to the past and a vision of the future.” ~Bluegrass Now

Gypsy Grass is rounded out by Vinny Raniolo (guitar), Rich Zukor (percussion) and a revolving door of bassists, including Gary Mazzarappi, Mark Schatz (Nickel Creek, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Maura O’Connell, Tony Rice, John Hartford, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Tim & Mollie O’Brien, Derek Jones and Samson Grisman. This underscores the “collective” aspect of Gypsy Grass. A collective structure gives the band the freedom to experiment with different types of artists, for example a jazz bassist versus a traditional bluegrass bassist, and it gives the band the ability to interchange other top rate players when core members are not available, as well as the ability to bring in players they want to write and perform with.

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