Frogg Cafe is a 5 piece band from the New York metropolitan area making music that incorporates elements of Zappa-esque progressive rock, pop melodicism and fusion jazz. Frogg Café’s music is also peppered with an appealing variety of other flavors including latin music, bluegrass, modern chamber music and avant-garde/experimental. Energetic live shows feature extended flights of group improvisation that would draw grins from any hardcore jam-band fan.
The members of this unique group are Nick Lieto (vocals, keyboards, trumpet, flugelhorn), Bill Ayasse (vocals, electric violin, mandolin), Andrew Sussman (vocals, bass, cello), John Lieto (vocals, trombone) and James Guarnieri (drums). Frogg Café studio albums also exploit the considerable talents of a regular supporting cast of guest musicians, who supply trombone, marimba, flute, and additional percussion to their colorful and highly textured arrangements.
Discography includes six albums, amongst them a double-disc live release and a full length improvisational album. Most recent studio album, Bateless Edge (2010) represents a collection of seventy-four minutes of music, full of complex arrangements in several different progressive rock styles. Past discography includes: Frogg Cafe (2001), re-mastered with a live bonus track; Noodles (2002) an improvisational album which captures a snippet of a four-hour jam session in the studio; the melodic and heavily Zappa and early Genesis-influenced Creatures (2003); Fortunate Observer of Time (2005); and live double-disc The Safenzee Diaries (2007), which features fourteen songs and over two hours of live music spanning from 2004-2006. Safenzee captures a band that is internationally renowned for live performances at their absolute best, in a virtuoso display of showmanship.
The real experience comes when you witness this band live. Frogg Café has performed at seven major progressive rock festivals: Calprog, Whittier, CA (2007), Progday, Chapel Hill, NC (2007), NEARfest (Northeast Art Rock), Bethlehem, PA (2005), Prog in the Park, Rochester, NY (2004, 2005), Berg-Herzberg, Herzberg, Germany (2004), Rites of Spring (Rosfest) Pre-show, Phoenixville, PA (2004) and Zappanale, Bad Doberan, Germany (2004). Club performances include: The Knitting Factory Tap Bar (NYC), Towne Crier (Pawling, NY), Lizard Lounge (Boston), Nectar’s (Burlington, VT), Orion Sound Studios (Baltimore, MD), and several performances for the NJProghouse Series (NJ).
Frogg Café has shared the stage with noteworthy artists Proto-Kaw featuring Kerry Livgren of Kansas, The Flower Kings, Happy the Man, keyboard virtuoso Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater and drumming legend Rod Morgenstein, Miriodor, Spiraling, Izz, Helmet of Gnats, Page McConnell of Phish, Amfibian featuring Tom Marshall, Dave Mason, and Ryan Montbleau. Legendary ex-Zappa percussionist Ed Mann took up the mallets for the 2004 Zappanale Festival in Germany.
BILL AYASSE Violin, Mandolin, Vocals
Bill Ayasse started playing the violin in 4th grade and was always trying to break out of the "normal" violinist mold. He began exploring new musical styles very early with his friends in Junior High School. With influences such as Ponty, Grappelli, Noel Pointer, Mark O’Conner and Zappa he soon realized that there was much more to the violin than Mozart. After receiving his Bachlor of Music in Music Education from the Crane School Of Music he attended the University of Northern Colorado and recieved his Master of Music degree. Bill moved back from Colorado and began Jammin’ with his friends from Crane - Frank Camiola was such a huge Zappa fan and also played great guitar - "Lumpy Gravy" was born! (mostly out of the need to hear great music performed on Long Island). Now a couple of years later Bill had the desire to play original music with an ear for the unusual and that is how "Frogg Café" was born. Bill also performs Bluegrass fiddle with two Long Island Bluegrass groups. Eastbound Frieght and The Long Island Bluegrass Quartet. He also is involved with the Bluegrass Club of Long Island. They run Bluegrass concerts and workshops. The group also helps to organize the Long Island Bluegrass Festival. Bill also runs a project studio called Blue Frogg Studios on Long Island. Besides recording Frogg Cafe he also has many local and regional astists recording and producing in his studio.
JAMES GUARNIERI Drums
Jim started playing his first gigs at the age of 16, playing standard jazz style music for dancing. After completing high school, he attended N.Texas State U. where he studied music and got heavily into jazz. He was strongly influenced by artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane as well as the great jazz drummers such as Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes and Jack DeJohnette. Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles were also among in influential. While at North Texas, Jim continued to broaden his musical experiences. He was a member of the school symphony orchestra, percussion and mallet ensemble and big bands. He also played for a semi-professional orchestra called The Dallas Civic Symphony. He traveled throughout the area on weekends playing various gigs with several big bands in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, playing in nightclubs, backing up singers or playing in country-western bands, and southern-style rock groups.
After 4 years at NTU Jim decided to leave and pursue a career as a performing musician. He started playing 6 nights a week with a top 40 group which traveled around the east coast and was privileged to play with a group backing up the singing group The Chiffons. As he continued to travel one of the groups led him back to Dallas where he lived and had an opportunity to play with the great jazz pianist Red Garland. Moving back to the NYC area in 1974, Jim continued to work as a musician doing some studio work, playing club dates and playing with original and pop jazz groups such as Odyssey, Bermuda Triangle and Unity. At the same time, he pursued a teaching career and received a Masters degree from LIU in Music Education and is presently a teacher of instrumental music. Over the past 10 years, Jim has continued to study his instrument and is presently studying with Sam Ulano. He is performing in various musical settings and is excited to bring his many musical experiences into the music of Frogg Café.
JOHN LIETO Trombone, Vocals
John started playing Trombone as a 5th grader. He became seriously interested in music during junior high school after hearing the High School Jazz band play at an assembly program.
During John’s High School years, he performed with the Symphonic Band and as a soloist with the Jazz Band. John attributes his development in music to studying privately and the experience of playing in groups outside of high school such as the Wagner College Jazz Band and the Staten Island Community Jazz Band. John’s early musical inspiration came from listening to the jazz/rock band Chicago.
John was accepted as a performance/education major at the Manhattan School of Music but choose to attend the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. After graduating, John held several teaching positions, levels K-12. During this tenure John regularly performed with several local Jazz ensembles and Long Island Wedding Bands.
In the early 1990’s, John became interested in technology and eventually left music education to pursue a career in technology and business. These days, John enjoys both the business/tech and music professions. His musical development has been influenced by artists from every musical discipline, including the music of: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ravel, Copeland, J.J. Johnson, Steve Turre, Steve Davis, Michael Brecker, Chicago Yellowjackets, Jazz Crusaders, Maynard Ferguson and Nick Lieto.
John enjoys the love and support of his wife Diane, son Michael and daughter Jaclyn, who play Trombone and Violin respectively.
NICK LIETO Keyboards, Flugelhorn, Trumpet, Vocals
Nick started playing Trumpet in the fourth grade and got his first gigs playing and singing in Rock and Funk bands as a teenager. Having always felt lucky to be taking part in music, an eclectic array of music helped to influence him at an early age. Nick enjoyed the variety of Rock and Radio music that the mid-late 70’s and early 80’s had to offer. "The Police", "Chicago", "Earth Wind and Fire", "Yes" Stevie Wonder and Gino Vannelli, were among the many to have an early musical impact.
As Nick went on to study Music in High School and College, Jazz and Classical music helped to shape him as a musician, composer and person. Nick has been inspired and influenced by a long list of great composers including J.S. Bach, Gustav Mahler, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Michael Brecker, and Joni Mitchell. These and many other creators of great music continue to be a major influence.
As an educator and musician, Nick is thankful to able to share the music that continues to inspire him, and to play with a progressive band that is dedicated to creating music that is fresh and different. "Music is life!!"
ANDREW SUSSMAN Bass, Cello, Vocals
Andrew Sussman’s main instrument is cello, but enjoys playing electric bass and acoustic guitar in Frogg Cafe. He has a degree in Music Education from the Crane School of Music at SUNY POTSDAM and a Masters in Cello Performance from Hunter College in NYC where he learned how to play, and more importantly teach all orchestral instruments, specializing in strings. His influences range from Zappa and Yes to Pink Floyd, early Van Halen, Joni Mitchell,Rush, ELP and King Crimson.