When the Frank Vignola Trio returns to First Night Morris County on New Year’s Eve, Vinny Raniolo and Gary Mazzaroppi had better carry Vignola onstage on a stretcher.
Without that extra schtick, nobody’s going to buy Vignola’s story about coming within a quarter-note of losing his arm after an ATV crash last year.
Vignola was in top form Saturday at The Minstrel in Morris Township.
The man’s right wing is held together with a piece of titanium and nine screws—that’s Vignola’s story and he’s sticking to it—but his musical nerves appear to be unscathed. His funny bone is intact, too.
Surgeons could not remove the corny jokes and stage banter that fans love almost as much as the silky tone and hummingbird riffs from Vignola’s signature Eastman Thorell guitar.
“So how’s everybody feeling?” he deadpanned at the top of the show, his only hint of the March 2017 accident that fractured eight bones, collapsed his lungs and caused a dangerous infection.
On a couple of medleys Vignola, 52, traded guitar riffs with Raniolo so ferociously that the Folk Project should have had fire extinguishers onstage. Spontaneous combustion felt imminent.
Stay tuned for a video sampling.
The show also featured a noteworthy opening act. Windborne, a Vermont quartet, was a trio for this show, because Lauren Breunig was ill.
We’re not even sure where a fourth voice would fit into the finely tuned, mostly a cappella harmonic blend presented by Jeremy Carter-Gordon, Lynn Mahoney Rowan and Will Thomas Rowan.
Their set included working-class protest songs spanning four centuries, from their Song on the Times project.
Until recently, Windborne probably was better known in Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Angola, where the group performed during a 2014 State Department-sponsored tour, than in the U.S.
That changed when one of Windborne’s Songs on the Times, sung outside a certain “shiny tower on Fifth Avenue,” went viral on the internet and goosed their careers:
Vocalist Lynn Rowan also took a solo turn on Saturday, joining the Frank Vignola Trio for a breezy, unrehearsed rendition of the 1931 jazz standard All of Me.
As always, it’s the video you didn’t shoot that comes back to haunt you.
In this case, it was a strange and mesmerizing Corsican number, consisting of other-worldly chordal sounds.
Luckily, we will get a second chance. Windborne will headline at The Minstrel in November 2018, thanks to a vote by Saturday’s audience.