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DownBeat Magazine 2017

DownBeat Magazine 2017

Syncopated times 2017 03 mar iii
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On stage at 12 django by the sea festival features guitar prodigy the portland phoenix ii
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Frank Vignola gathers ‘Younger Generation’ for guitar spectacular at upcoming JazzSLC

By Rebecca Walsh Special to The Salt Lake City Tribune

Salt Lake City isn't typically one of the towns mentioned when it comes to jazz innovation.

But Monday night may be an exception, when longtime jazzman Frank Vignola brings together an ensemble of eight young guitarists from around the world at the Capitol Theatre.

Vignola, who played as a sideman in the 1980s for artists including Madonna and Ringo Starr, will be performing with a disparate troupe of his own making in Utah, including 11-year-old Henry Acker from Duxburg, Mass., and 25-year-old Olli Soikkeli from Finland, both young masters of the "Gypsy jazz" sound of Django Reinhardt.

It's Vignola's job to mold the group — "The Younger Generation" — into a cohesive whole while highlighting their strengths. He's not worried.

"This is going to be a very loving affair," he says. "There's a camaraderie amongst jazz guitarists. The guys who are going to be there are just breaking onto the scene like crazy, working all over the place. To have them come together in one location, playing together for the first time, being able to show off in front of the audience … I'm sure all the guys will be backstage cheering them on.

"It's a great vibe. If there's any competition, it's a friendly competition."

JazzSLC founder Gordon Hanks and Vignola were chatting last year and hatched the idea. Salt Lake City's show is the first time the "very special, one-time group" will perform together, Hanks says.

Vignola, 50, discovered his Younger Generation through varied means. Some came to his performances. He invited a 9-year-old Acker to the stage during a gig two years ago at Boston's Regattabar Jazz Club. Others, like Maryland-based 17-year-old Jan Knutson, enrolled in his workshops. They've stayed in touch using Skype.

On Monday, the show will feature group performances of jazz standards — George Gershwin, Miles Davis, Irving Berlin — as well as solo performances from the young virtuosos. Besides the up-and-coming guitarists, the show will feature Australian Nicki Parrott, on vocals and bass.

"Everybody will be featured to show off what they do best," Vignola says. "It always becomes clear as you're playing."

He's still finalizing the set.

"Les Paul used to say, 'Never follow a kid act,' " Vignola adds. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to offer them a real gig?' They'll come to Salt Lake City, be paid like a professional and we'll see what they've got. They're going to nail it."

Vignola's show caps off the 2015-16 JazzSLC series. Next year's lineup already is booked, including the Marsalis New Orleans Jazz Jam, New York Five and the Monty Alexander Trio. See the full slate at