Saturday Night

Saturday 4 July – night
by T. Wesley


Sylvain Provost is a MJF regular, having gotten his start at the festival over 25 years ago.

It’s easy to see why fans of traditional jazz guitar like Provost – his playing is toneful and pleasant. His backup band was solid and very competent, bringing up the energy as Provost waxed and pulling it back as he waned.

The band was very tight and obviously well-rehearsed. Provost was short on chit-chat, using nearly every one of his 60 minutes to play. His subtle use of effects like reverb and delay gave a breadth to his tonal spectrum that is usually missing from the traditional guitar-based jazz trio.

The Gear: Provost favors a stunning Beauregard single cutaway guitar as well as a Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster. All appear to be stock, unmodified guitars. He plays through a TC Electronic G System multi-effects unit, incorporating ZVEX Distortion and Lovepedal Eternity pedals into the G System’s loops. His amps are both vintage Fenders – a Princeton and a Bronco.


You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Frank Vignola is the kind of monster jazz player that makes other guitarists despair. At the beginning of their version of The Flight of the Bumblebee, all eyes were on Vignola; by the end, when all three players locked into the signature riff of that well-known and speedy tune, the audience sat stunned, unable to do anything but applaud wildly.

Vignola didn’t write many of the songs he played, but he made them all his own, putting his musical companions through blistering paces. They drew from material written by Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, and George Gershwin, but also Bach, Mozart, and Rimsky-Korsakov.

While Vignola, as the leader of the band, is the obvious draw, his bass player Gary Mazzaroppi stole the show numerous times with his frenetic and impressive solos. Second guitarist Vinny Raniolo stepped away from his boom-chick from time to time and soloed impressively; he most likely has a great career ahead of him should he choose to leave his current gig.

Vignola plays with a minimum of left-hand vibrato and plays a lot of chromatic runs in his solos. His sense of melody is sublime and utterly unshakeable, with the melodies coursing over the chord inversions and substitutions with incredible transparency. When he decides to cut loose, Vignola plays faster than just about any other player in the genre, yet his great feel flows through in every note he plays.

A real moment of hilarity ensued when Vignola opened up the show to requests from the crowd. “Gershwin!” somebody shouted, to which Vignola replied, “Which song?” In short order, audience members called out three songs and the trio launched into a medley… of all three songs at once, each player taking a different tune. They quickly shifted into serious mode, however, pleasing the crowd with an actual medley of Rhapsody in Blue and I’ve Got Rhythm to close the show.

The Gear: Vignola plays a signature model Thorell guitar into an Acoustic Kat amp. Though he recently took delivery of a Thorell, Raniolo plays a Collings guitar with a soundhole pickup into a JazzKat amp.

Tomorrow’s concert: Branford Marsalis.

Click to continue to the Sunday Afternoon report.