Johnny Frigo | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Johnny Frigo


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I really don't know how much time violinist Johnny Frigo spends on his painting, or his poetry, or on cashing his royalty checks for such songs as "Detour Ahead" and "I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out" (both enjoying revived interest for the past few years). If he'd just concentrate on his music, there's no telling what he might accomplish in his 80th year. His fingers remain surprisingly spry, enabling him to negotiate the trickiest rococo ornamentations, produce a true and sweet intonation, and swing as hard as his surroundings dictate. He plays a somewhat reconstructed brand of swing-era violin, a cross between the rough-and-tumble force of Joe Venuti and the subtler precision craftsmanship of Stephane Grappelli: an incandescent and flirtatious style, in which Frigo's deadpan musical humor works hand in hand with his virtuosity. In the last decade or so his fame has extended beyond Chicago, thanks to his presence on a number of recordings for the Chesky and Concord labels. His latest appearance, as part of the band led by guitarist Charlie Byrd on the album Du Hot Club de Concord, reminds us of Frigo's ability to make the violin sing jazz. In the world today only Grappelli--the greatest jazz violinist in history--can surpass him. Frigo will play with his son Rick on drums, his forever partner, Joe Vito, on piano, and the endlessly inventive bassist Larry Gray Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552. He and Vito also play as a duo Mondays, 8 PM, Toulouse Cognac Bar, 2140 N. Lincoln Park West; 665-9071. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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