Hawaii in Honolulu and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center this time around, play tonight and Friday night at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona, Saturday night at the Kamani Room in the Hapuna Prince Hotel and Sunday night at Kilauea Theater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Show times are at 7 p.m.
Vignola told the Tribune-Herald on Dec. 30, his 51st birthday, that since playing here, he and Raniolo have toured across the U.S., plus England, Switzerland, Canada and Cuba — which he called “pretty amazing.”
“We did some teaching for the ISA, which is the government-sponsored (arts) school,” Vignola said of Cuba. “It was like going into Harvard. It was just unbelievable how great of a music school they have there.
“Our main duties was to teach with the guitarist Tommy Emmanuel and Pancho Amat, who is a legendary Cuban tres (a guitar-like instrument) player. It was great to collaborate with them and see that whole culture, and just to see Cuba. It’s amazing how close it is to the United States and how isolated it is at the same time.”
Vignola said ISA graduates are put to work by the Cuban government, playing music in the hotels.
“Almost 24/7 in all the levels of the hotels there are these young people playing unbelievable music — guitars and treses and bass and violin. The level of musician is pretty remarkable over there, because there’s nothing to do but practice. There’s no distraction,” he said.
Even though Cuba has a proud musical tradition boasting luminaries living and dead such as Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat, Desi Arnaz, Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera, and the best schooling a government can offer, there are still basic challenges musicians there face, such as a lack of materials American musicians take for granted.
“I left some strings and some books and they were so thankful that we were there. I could tell that they were really happy that we made the effort to come visit them. That was really touching,” Vignola said.
Admission to both Kona shows is $30, which is the general admission price to all other Big Island shows. Gold circle seating is $45 in Volcano and $48 at Hapuna. Tickets are available at Gertrude’s and Kiernan Music in Kona, Waimea General Store in Parker Square, Taro Patch Gifts in Honokaa, and Hilo Guitars, CD Wizard, Hilo Music Exchange in Hilo.
Information and tickets are also available by calling 896-4845 or online at lazarbear.com.
Vignola and Raniolo are also conducting a guitar workshop at the Hapuna Prince Hotel Kamani Room 10 a.m.3 p.m. Saturday with an hour lunch break. The $200 fee also includes admission to the evening’s show.
“All levels are welcome and it’s kind of a ‘shut up and play your guitar’ kind of clinic. We don’t do a lot of talking,” Vignola said. “We start with exercises. Everybody plays together. We’re going to hand out 15 lead sheets for songs. Everybody’s going to play through them. We’re going to talk about how to play a song. We’re going to talk about how to play a melody. We’re going to talk about how to improvise based on the melody, a la Louie Armstrong. You always know where you are in the song when you hear a Louie Armstrong solo. We’re going to go over some techniques on how to do that.
“But it’s basically going to be all playing. People’s fingers are going to be hurting after the clinic, I guarantee.”
Vignola said he does what he does for the love of music and never looks at playing guitar as a job.
“I believe that playing music is fun. First and foremost, it’s a hobby. It’s my hobby,” he said. “My living is getting work, getting on the airplane, getting in the car, contacting the venue. But when I get onstage and play, that’s the hobby. That’s the fun part.”
Frank Vignola, right, and Vinny Raniolo at the 2015 NYC Winter Jazz Festival.