Frank Vignola / Frank Wess

Without a Doubt

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Frank Wess co-leads this 2000 session with guitarist Frank Vignola, a much younger musician who is versatile enough to play straight-ahead jazz one minute and fusion or pop-jazz/new adult contemporary the next. Vignola is talented, but unfortunately, some of his more commercial work has tended to waste his improvisatory skills -- when you're going out of your way to get on NAC radio, improvisation and integrity can fall by the wayside. Thankfully, that isn't a problem on Without a Doubt. Wess doesn't do NAC, and on this bop-oriented CD, Vignola's playing is strictly straight-ahead. Without a Doubt finds the two Franks forming a piano-less quartet with drummer Joe Ascione and tenor saxman Mark Egan, who, like Vignola, has provided a lot of fusion and electric jazz. Wess was 78 when this album was recorded; so here you have a one-time Count Basie sideman playing alongside improvisers who are young enough to be his grandchildren. But the generation gap isn't an issue because Vignola, Egan, and Ascione all meet Wess on his own turf and contribute material that is appropriate. In fact, Without a Doubt contains some of Vignola's more noteworthy playing. Wess plays mostly flute this time -- except for two songs, he leaves most of the tenor playing to Egan. And while Without a Doubt isn't among Wess' essential releases, it demonstrates that the jazz veteran was still quite capable of recording a solid, pleasing album at age 78.

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