More Of Frank Zappa's Jazz Compositions And Performances Reconstructed Or Partially Deconstructed In A Brand New Project/Object No. #4 in a series Friday, July 24, 2009
About The Music
'Son Of...' is obviously a companion piece to the earlier Zappa project/object, 'Jazz Noise & Randomonium,' and focuses once again on Frank's jazz compositions and performances. There's certainly no shortage of material to work with, but I've been highly selective in choosing just what tunes were actually included in this particular undertaking. The selections here primarily draw from Frank's 1980's horn oriented bands, as well as earlier ensembles that featured keyboardist George Duke. In all honesty, after Frank's exquisite trio of thoroughly jazz tinged LP's ('Hot Rats,' 'The Grand Wazoo,' and 'Waka/Jawaka'), I began to lose interest in his new direction, save the occasional recording here and there. To quote a reader who recently left a comment on one of my previous FZ posts, I too "have never (quite) been able to reconcile the disparity between the maturity and genius in the music that Zappa made, (with that of) his adolescent and sexist humor." Subject matter like yellow snow, penis dimensions, enema bandits, and Sears ponchos held absolutely no interest for me and never really cut it anyway. The bulk of his work with Flo and Eddie I still find largely unlistenable even to this day (no offense guys!). But the addition of Duke in that ensemble redeemed their output somewhat. However, it was only after the singers departed that Duke was finally (and thankfully) given more creative input and soloing space. Bringing Ruth Underwood into the fold was also a stroke of genius, as was the addition of the Fowler Brothers, some crack drummers, and even Jean-Luc Ponty (for a minute or two). But over the years as Zappa slowly found the musicians who were able to play his songs in the way he wanted them played (and the way he actually heard them in his head), his jazz began to sound more like a mere exercise in technical prowess, based more on intellect, and less on feel. Then of course there was Frank's previously mentioned, and unfortunate preoccupation with adolescent toilet humor and 'dick' jokes. This element brought things down to the level of junior high school antics over intelligence (at least lyrically). But after getting his rocks off with a series of short lived bands that produced arena rock, he began reintroducing jazz back into his repertoire. However by now, the sonic sheen he began giving his work was becoming so cold and metallic, it served only to detract from the caliber of the chops that were being produced. Too bad. There were some really great performances, but the soulfulness was lost beneath the gloss of the veneer. Zappa had polished his songs and performances into a steel brushed luster, and in the process, wiped out the imperfections that make them sound human.
As with the others in the series, I've done a lot of cut and paste in 'Son Of...'. If you're already familiar with Zappa's recordings, you'll easily spot the differences. Both 'Over-nite Sensation' and 'Apostrophe' have been whittled down to an astonishing nine minutes running time, three of which are comprised of the nifty solos contained in 'Fifty-Fifty' (by Duke, Ponty, and FZ respectively), and the remaining moments featuring the entirety of 'Uncle Remus.' To give you an idea of the degree of editing involved, the title track from 'Apostrophe' has been reduced to just that, an apostrophe clocking in at a whopping 1.8 seconds in length. Blink, and you'll miss it. 'Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?' meanwhile is deconstructed into three segments, one of which eliminates Ruth Underwood's lively moment in the spotlight, as well a countless number of additional bars in the middle section (sorry, Ruth). It's not that her contribution was an unexceptional one. Not in the least. Here I performed the opposite of what I attempted with 'The Grand Wazoo' in the original 'J&R.' That is to say, I cut the band's return to the 'head' (where they presumably emptied their bladders, freshened up a bit, brushed their hair, and momentarily pondered their reflection in the mirror), along with the restatement of the theme in order to let the awesome trombone and piano solos (from Bruce Fowler & George Duke respectively) run without break. The audacity! After the initial intro and cartoonish thematic motif are declared, the piece now swings like motherf#@%er as a result, leading nicely into Frank's rendition of Oliver Nelson's resplendent, 'Stolen Moments.' Can it get any better than that? Christ! Dittofor 'Son Of Mr. Green Genes.' More unified, less bombastic. A real concise song now, proving that one doesn't necessarily need eighty eight bars to make a statement that can easily be expressed in a more elegant eight. I've done this all done of course in the name of love for Frank's music, and I hope that you'll enjoy it. Remember, music is the best. Play it loud and often.
1.) The Black Page (New Age Version) "Boing!" 2.) St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast, Pt. 1 3.) Zomby Woof (Excerpt) 4.) Cosmik Debris (Excerpt) 5.) Fifty-Fifty (Solos) 6.) St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast, Pt. 2 7.) Father O'Blivion (Excerpt) 8.) Apostrophe (') (Blink, And You'll Miss It) 9.) Uncle Remus "I may have left them in my other bag" 10.) Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Pt. 3 11.) Village Of The Sun 12.) Echinda's Arf (Of You) 13.) Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Pt. 1 (Minus Miss Ruthie's Solo & An Untold Number Of Additional Bars) 14.) Stolen Moments 15.) Murder By Numbers (w/Mr. Sting) 16.) Penguin In Bondage (Excerpt) 17.) Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Pt. 2 18.) Eat That Question 19.) Black Napkins (Randomonium Boing!) 20.) Big Swifty, Pts. 2 & 3 21.) Penguin In Bondage Again (Excerpt) 22.) The Untouchables 23.) Bacon Fat "They're really getting professional now" 24.) Sofa No. 1 25.) Son Of Mr. Green Genes (Truncated) "We all like order in Germany, you know?" 26.) T'Mershi Duween (Truncated) 27.) Dog Breath Variations 28.) Uncle Meat
Source material for 'Son Of Jazz Noise & Randomonium' comes from:
Hot Rats (1969)/Over-nite Sensation (1973) Apostrophe (1974)/Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) One Size Fits All (1975)/Make A Jazz Noise Here (1991) and You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vols. 2 (1988) & 5 (1992)
Frank Zappa's Orchestral Works Featuring The London Symphony And Royal Philharmonic, The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra, Ensemble InterContemporian, Art Laboe's Original Sound Orchestra With Various Card Carrying Members Of The Musicians Union (L.A. Local), As Well As Volunteers From The Mount St. Mary's College Orchestra, All Reconstructed (And In Some Cases Deconstructed) In A Brand New Project/Object No. #3 in a series Friday, July 10, 2009
About The Music
The FZproject/object series goes even deeper into his extensive songbook, focusing this time on the majestic works he wrote for orchestra, an under appreciated corner of his musical brilliance.
If you've been following this short series, then you already know the drill ---- conceptual continuity, virtual razor blades, disclaimers, etc. --- so there's no need for me to lay it down one more time. Along the way, there's also been a lot of great music from Frank, and these orchestral pieces are no exception. From what I gather, Zappa was never fully satisfied with the end product of his attempts at working with large orchestras (and he's worked with some of the best!), apparently finding fault with their lack of understanding in interpreting his music, as well as what he considered "sloppy" mistakes that came from seasoned musicians who were considered to be members of prestigious ensembles. It wasn't until he collaborated with The Ensemble Modern in 1992 for 'The Yellow Shark' that he finally felt his classical compositions were properly perceived and executed. Of course that project was also completed just shortly before his untimely death. It's possible then that he may have simply been too sick to really care about flaws anymore and therefore embraced the results, imperfections and all. In facing imminent death, there's little time for rectifying past errors when more pressing matters are at hand. His earthbound days were sadly running out, so why fret over things that couldn't be changed? But oddly, I've neglected to include any of those specific 'Yellow Shark' performances in this collection. Don't ask me why. I don't know the answer.
One of the things that Zappa's orchestral creations frequently demonstrate, particularly those from '200 Motels,' are excellent examples of his conceptual continuity. In the mix below, you'll notice several musical themes that are repeated throughout multiple compositions. Upon hearing these, you might simply accuse Zappa of recycling his material under different names. However, that would not only be a wrong accusation, but also missing the point entirely. Just as jazz musicians frequently quote from other song sources within their extended solos, Zappa has liberally quoted (both compositionally and improvisationally) from his own songbook throughout the entirety of his career. As a part of his organic approach, he'd frequently reference previous songs to weave passages from them into his new ones, and in the process create another thread in his much touted 'conceptual continuity.' Listen closely, and you'll hear additional connections to some of the other material I've featured previously.
To break up the 70+ minutes of seriousness that largely prevails here, I've included a few non-orchestral pieces within the set simply as a form of relief from the heaviness (or "heavyosity" as my Brooklyn-bred neighbor might say) of the works that I've chosen to showcase. In closing, as has been the case with the previous Zappaproject/objects I've presented, please don't lose sight of the fact that I am merely a devoted messenger delivering Frank's genius in a shiny new package. And as with those said mixes, please play this one loud, and often.
1.) Semi Fraudulent/Direct-From-Hollywood Overture 2.) Regyptian Strut 3.) Duke Of Orchestral Prunes 4.) Duck Duck Goose (Excerpt) 5.) Sad Jane, First Movement 6.) Touring Can Sure Make You Crazy 7.) Would You Like A Snack? 8.) Redneck Eats (Excerpt) 9.) Sad Jane, Second Movement 10.) Naval Aviation In Art 11.) Bogus Pomp, Pt.1 12.) Down In De Dew 13.) Bogus Pomp, Pt.2 14.) Run Home Slow Theme 15.) Run Home Cues, #2 16.) Mount St. Mary's Concert (Excerpt) 17.) Take You Clothes Off When You Dance 18.) The Perfect Stranger, Pt.1 19.) Centerville 20.) The Perfect Stranger, Pt.2 21.) Mysterioso
Source material for 'Orchestral Maneuvers' comes from the following:
200 Motels (1971)/Orchestral Favorites (1979) The London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1 (1983) Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger (1984) The London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2 (1987) The Lost Episodes (1996)/Läther (1996) and incidentals from various FZ recordings