By Brett Weatherston
Guitarist Vinny Valentino continues to redefine jazz guitar, to the acclaim of audiences worldwide. Playing guitar since age six, this native Virginian began touring in a progressive rock band while still in high school. At age 16, influenced by the music of George Benson, Vinny began pursuing Jazz as a career. Vinny now calls New York home and tours extensively, playing concerts, festivals, and club engagements around the world. Vinny has shared the stage or recording studio with such jazz greats as John Pattitucci, Richard Bona, Victor Bailey, Steve Gadd, Dennis Chambers, and Charlie Byrd. He’s also a member of the jazz fusion powerhouse Vital Information. We recently got a chance to sit down and talk with Vinny; here’s how it went…
VOX: Hi Vinny; thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us. Let’s take it from the top. What set you down the path as an artist/musician?
Vinny Valentino: When I was 6 years old, my mom gave my father a guitar for his birthday. For some reason, I was really drawn to it. I remember my dad teaching me my first few chords and tunes; then I took lessons at a local music store. My parents were both artistic, as well. My father played the accordion and my mother was into painting.
VOX: You’ve been busy playing with Steve Smith and Vital Information in addition to your solo project and guest appearances. Are there any recent performances or stories from the road that stick out in your mind?
VV: In August of this past year, I got the chance to play with Peter Erskine. That was a great gig and a dream come true for me. I also played on a Grammy nominated album with Hector Martignon. It’s my first Grammy nomination in the Latin Jazz category. I also finished two new records that will be released very soon. The first is a straight ahead jazz trio recording with drummer Ian Froman and bassist Chris Tarry…the second is a recording I have been working on for the past few years with bassist Baron Browne. We call it Double B, Double V and it features Tom Coster and Joel Rosenblatt.
VOX: What’s next on the horizon for you?
VV: Besides the new releases which will be a big part of this year’s touring schedule, I will be touring again with Steve Smith and Vital Information. We will be playing at the Java Jazz Festival and also at multiple venues throughout Japan. We will also be performing in select cities in the States, including Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Manchester, New York, The Berks Jazz Festival in PA, and Washington DC. Check out my website vinny.com for the latest calendar info. I am also very involved in recording for playalongjazz.com. This is a new website that I have created to put the ensemble back into jazz. This site is dedicated to helping jazz musicians develop and improve their ensemble playing in a music-minus-one environment as well as become better overall players.
VOX: That’s great. Let’s talk about guitars for a minute. Would you mind telling us about what drew you to the VOX Virage?
VV: The VOX Virage drew me to the VOX Virage. It’s that kind of guitar. It’s got a slick look and feel to it, as well as a super versatile sound.
VOX: What are your favorite features on the Virage? What would you say separates it from other guitars that are out there?
VV: For me, it really is a complete package but if I had to pick one feature that stands out, I would say it’s the pickups. The triple-coil pickups make it possible to get many different sounds out of it. I have used it on jazz gigs as well as funky rock recordings. I was recently asked to bring a Tele to a jingle session. The call was for a country/bluegrass-sounding guitar. The producer on the session preferred the sound of the Virage to my old Tele. Then I did a jazz gig later that night on the same axe!
VOX: You’ve been using VOX AC15s in your rig as well, right? Are there any other VOX products in your rig?
VV: I was having a conversation with John Scofield about the difficulties of getting good amps overseas. He was the first one to kind of hip me to the VOX amps. I have played many different models now, including AC15s, AC30s, Valvetronix, Night Trains, and the Hand-Wired series amps. They all have a consistently fat, clean, punchy, and warm tone. It’s the tube sound that most guitarists are looking for; including me.
VOX: Would you like to share a general quote about VOX or VOX guitars?
VV: VOX makes guitars and amps that working players want to play - with a consistent quality, sound, and feel.
VOX: Thanks a lot, Vinny!
Find out more about Vinny at www.vinny.com and www.vitalinformation.com