Vinny Valentino

Live at the Cafe Japone

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Too often when listening to a newly released guitar album for the first time, there's a tendency to try and place the performer somewhere in the spectrum of guitar players, namely Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Pat Metheny, or George Benson. With Vinny Valentino, this conscious or subconscious state of mind exercise is quickly dispensed with once Valentino embarks upon the course of creating his special guitar licks. Whether it be on his own tunes - - there are three of them on the playlist - - classic standards, or the cut by drummer Richard Seals II, Valentino's artful, supple fingering results in a commotion of guitar outpouring not heard all that often on today's scene, which, by the way, is populated with some very fine stringmen. All the cuts on this album are worth writing about. One deserving special mention is "The Way You Look Tonight," which is an improvisional eight-minute feast to gorge upon. Not only is it a vehicle for guitar magic, but for the synergy which exists between Valentino and his trio mates, Seals on drums and Steve Zerlin on bass. Seals has a special way of making his contribution to the proceedings. He manages to lay out chattering percussive rhythms on top of which Valentino can work, without overwhelming him. Valentino's own compositions offer a range of styles and emotions from the variations on the blues captured by "Blues for a While" to a semi-funky, clean string rendition of "Positano." But the album's tour de force is "Secret Love," which is subjected to a series of ever-changing styles from flamenco to straightforward ballad. Nowhere is Valentino's fingering facility better displayed than on this otherwise gushy song which was a big hit for Doris Day. Aiding and abetting the excitement generated by this album is the enthusiasm of the crowd at Washington, D. C.'s Café Japone, where Valentino has had a gig for almost eight years. One of the better guitar releases of the year, this album is recommended.

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