The Frank & Joe Show

33 1/3

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The Frank & Joe Show is actually a partnership between Django Reinhardt-influenced guitarist Frank Vignola (who often overdubs a rhythm line behind his lead) and phenomenal percussionist Joe Ascione. Their eclectic CD primarily emphasizes music from the swing era, though there are a few exceptions. Their sense of adventure begins with their explorations of classical repertoire. "Mozart Jam," which is loosely based upon the composer's "Turkish March," is a delightful romp, as is Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee," with Ascione having no trouble keeping up with the guitarist. "Begin the Beguine" is recast as a brisk samba, with Vignola overdubbing several guitars in spots, while the loping "Stardust" is savored in a more lyrical setting. The hilarious interpretation of "It's Only a Paper Moon" blends the feeling of Western swing, adding violinist Charles Burnham, with the loping percussion suggesting both horseback riding and a calypso beat. The Latin favorite "Tico Tico" is inevitably played at fast tempos, so the duo's relaxed approach is refreshing. "Spiderman" is a pleasant surprise, set to the rhythm of a train at full steam (while adding an unaccredited train whistle), with Ascione's crisp brushes propelling Vignola's risk-taking guitar solo. The Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Running" almost sounds as if David Grisman could have arranged it. The vocal tracks are slightly less satisfying. A lightly swinging version of "The Sheik of Araby" is handicapped by Dr. John's overly hip vocals. Both Janis Siegel and Jane Monheit (heard respectively on "Don't Fence Me In" and "Besame Mucho") overdub backing vocals behind themselves, which ends up belittling their abilities a touch. Still, a few weak tracks are hardly enough to keep from recommending this brilliant effort.

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