Last night, I wanted to go out to listen to some jazz. I used to do this a lot before I got married, and before we had kids. Well, I looked up the calendar at my favorite spot, The Firefly Club in Ann Arbor. They were featuring the Frank Vignola Quintet. I had never heard of them before, but I love jazz guitar. This being the modern age, I tried to YouTube them and found some impressive stuff, so decided to make a night of it. Here’s some of what I found on YouTube:
The guys in that YouTube video were all present last night, plus a fantastic mandolin player from Nashville named Matt Flinner. Frank Vignola is the Bill Gates looking guy on the jazz acoustic guitar. Aaron Weinstein is an incredible violin player that looks like he’s still in college. Vinny Raniolo is the rhythm guitarist on acoustic, and Gary Mazzaroppi is on electric bass, although last night, he was on upright bass.
This does not really prepare you for what these guys can do live. I cannot recall ever seeing so much talent on stage at one time. Without a scrap of music, these guys went through piece after piece, just looking at each other for cues on solos, breaks, turn arounds and key changes. During the first set, Frank’s guitar amp started acting up, and instead of stopping to fix it, he yanked the cable out, and the rest of the quintet put their mics aside, and stepped up beside Frank and did it all purely acoustically! Wow, now that there were released from the stage, they began walking around the club, mariachi style, serenading various tables. I was literally one foot away from these guys, listening with just my ears and no amps or mics. It was awesome!
For the second set, they did not bother fixing the amp; they just started right where they left off, in the middle of the crowd. Then a bridal party came in(what a woman!) just to listen, and they became the focal point of the night. Frank lapsed right into ‘Here Comes the Bride’, which I never thought could be swing, but they did it, at an amazing tempo with solos, breaks, the whole shot, again with no music at all. BTW, big thanks goes out to the FireFly owner-manager, Susan Chastain, who generously offered the audience of the first set to stay for the second at no charge. Not a single person left.
Frank never seems to look at his frets while his fingers are finding all these voicings. He often is looking at someone else, especially right before a change or a solo. Vinny looks at his frets sometimes, but damn, his fingers move all over the frets, spanning three and four at a time and moving octaves at a time, just listening to where Frank’s going. The mandolin player has his eyes closed, but even if they were open, I don’t see how he could see the little tiny neck and frets of that thing. The violin player seemed the most deceptive guy besides Frank, because whether he was playing softly and slowly or presto, he has the same lax smile on his face.
Anyway, writing about it does not do justice to the experience. I’m glad I found these guys, and glad I went and stayed for both sets. I’m inspired.
Aaron and I played again in church today, and he’s no longer using the music…