Archive for May, 2011

The Mystery Of Civilization

Posted: May 27, 2011 in obsession, zappa

The Mystery Of Civilization (Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, Vol. 6)
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Guitar Prevention Episodes

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Cruising With A Time Disc Ship, Yellow Jawaka Offended Burnt Bongo & Baby Wazoo
Shark Yerbouti Meets Thing-Fish From 200 Motels Phaze III
A Fillmore Witch & Uncle Tan Heard The Grand Jazz June 1971 Orchestra
Someone Belong In Music
All Of Them Drowning Over-Nite In East London Ripped Utopia
The Perfect Way Out From L.A. Roxy
Their Freak Snakes, Arriving Absolutely Free, Sheik The Best Hot Gravy You Never Make In Yer Studio

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You Can’t Do That On Weasels Anymore
You Can’t Do That On Rats Anymore
You Can’t Do That On Francesco Anymore
You Can’t Do That On The Jets Anymore
You Can’t Do That On Chunga Anymore
You Can’t Do That On Frank Zappa

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Ruben Lost Everything ‘N Fits The Orchestra
In The London Symphony’s Garage, Orchestral Joe Is Healing Too Late To Play Guitar
Does One Size Man Shut Your Symphony Favorites Up?

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Stage, Stage, Stage, Stage, Stage, Stage Anymore

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Money Sensation Is Elsewhere
Save The Weeny Meat Of The Broadway Sandwich
New York Tinsel Town Playground Ahead
Jazz, Rebellion, Fury, Humor, Stranger Psychotics
We’re The Mothers From Hell, Mothermania!
Apostrophe For Us
What’s My Only Revenge?
Dirt, Hard, Waka

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You Are Lumpy Or Flesh
Just Another Life
You Have Noise Here
I Sleep It Nicely

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Zappa Band
Zoot Allures
Zappa Band

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Perhaps the most unique aspect of The Mothers’ work is the conceptual continuity of the group’s output macrostructure. There is, and always has been, a conscious control of thematic and structural elements flowing through each album, live performance, and interview.

Frank Zappa
“Instructional Material”
Circular, vol. 3, number 29, September 20, 1971, Burbank (CA, USA)

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One of the main roads to Zappa addiction for the occasional or new listener passes through the gradual discovery of the Conceptual Continuity inherent to all his projects.

On the other way around, there is no FZ hard-core fanatic known to mankind who did not enjoy the discovery of a new Conceptual Continuity Clue (CCC), and who (still in 2011) does not look for new ones, because we know that there may be something not yet brought into light.

A CCC may include various communication elements, some of them can be easy to catch, some other quite difficult or even obscure. For instance the One Size Fits All album artwork features in the front cover a big maroon sofa and a cigar, a conceptual continuity clue to a then undocumented 1971 live suite (partially released for the first time in 1988 in YCDTOSA Vol. 1 [Once Upon A Time, Sofa #1] and in 1992 in Playground Psychotics [Divan]) The back cover represents a sky map with dozens of bogus stars and constellations labelled with inside jokes in place of names. To get all the clues you have to link the album artwork to a song in the album, to your knowledge of a ‘71 live concert, and to lyrics to other FZ songs (at least). See this page (while it lasts) for further details.

A study of the album cover artwork realized by Cal Schenkel (www.ralf.com) in 2009

"Cigar" detail from a Cal Schenkel study

"Divan Divan" detail from a Cal Schenkel study

Moreover, Zappa was aware that his musical taste was in part different from the one of the average listener he wanted to reach. Because of that he developed various techniques to deliver “hard” musical information into, around, on top and/or at the bottom of some catchy material.

FZ discussing bass lines on the Drowning Witch album:
I like bass lines. They’re good, because for people who don’t understand what’s going on in the rest of the song, there’s always the bass line.

Tom Mulhern
“I’m Different” or “Not Exactly Duane Allman”
Guitar Player Magazine: February, 1983
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To manage those techniques and such an “output macrostructure” requires a great control of details, not only because a CCC could be (and often were) microscopic, but also because sometimes the band and/or the machine had been called to perform a stratified musical object.

These are the main reasons why there’s a high risk for a FZ hard-core fanatic to become a resentment listener.

After years of exposure, the poor and sometimes unaware hard-core fanatic has become so accustomed to listen “so carefully to every little detail” (listen to the FZ rap at the end of Stink Foot in Make A Jazz Noise Here [1]) that if subject to any FZ rendition he may react in a resentful manner if something does not go as expected.

A lot of examples may be given of “incentives towards in-depth listening” strategically designed by Zappa. The following two are in the sound engineering realm.

FZ discussing the CD reissue of We’re Only In It For The Money, remixed and remastered with new drums and bass parts:
And the problem with appealing to the younger audience today is they have become accustomed to a level of audio excellence and would psychologically reject certain older recordings just because of the way they sound without ever stopping to listen to what the content was. The tone quality of the recording itself would turn them off or dissuade them from in-depth listening. So, in an attempt to meet those new customers halfway I would like to spiff the stuff up as much as possible, so that they can tolerate the sound of it while they’re listening to the content that’s in there.

William Ruhlmann
“Frank Zappa: Moving On To Phase Three”
Goldmine, January 27, 1989

FZ discussing sound designing for his live tapes:
I like the idea of making my tapes, no matter what they are, so they’re intercuttable with one another. It’s less distracting to the listener. He can follow an album’s conceptual continuity better if he doesn’t get that drastic shock when the tone of things changes. The shock should be the idea of one type of music juxtaposed on another type of music, not the fact that the high hat suddenly jumps to the left.

Steve Birchall
“Modern Music Is a Sick Puppy. A Conversation with Frank Zappa”
Digital Audio, October/November 1984
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His strategy was aimed to improve the audience skills to catch CCC, and doing so, to keep them (or us) glued to the “macrostructure”.

And a maybe unwanted and unforeseen consequence was that, after a few years of training, in front of him had been standing an audience of potential resentment listeners!

Here it is, I think this is an attempt to rationalize why I have stolen the Adorno term (changing its meaning a little bit) at first to write a concert report, then to name a blog or whatever this space will be.

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[1] – FZ rap at the end of Stink Foot in Make A Jazz Noise Here
Now this is a special case, ladies and gentlemen, get that spot light over here, this is Ed Mann. Now, Ed had a tragic experience a few moments ago. One of the loyal fans in the audience came up and treated him like a war criminal because he fucked up the lick on “Dickie’s Such An Asshole” way back when–who knows?–several weeks ago. But the people who come to these shows listen so carefully to every little detail that this man was deeply offended by Ed’s performance. So to make sure that he gets his money’s worth tonight, we’re gonna dwell on it for a few moments now, and have Ed actually practice, kinda warm up for that big lick that happens in “Dickie’s Such An Asshole.” We’re gonna rehearse it right now, ready? Just do it as a solo, here we go . . . or . . .

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Thanks to Cal Schenkel who has kindly given permission to include his art here

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Edition two of the International Conference of Esemplastic Zappology (ICE-Z) took place in June 2006 in Rome. Proceedings have never been published. What follows is my contribution to ICE-Z #2. It is a sort of science fiction positivistic view of post portem Zappa releases. Fictitious covers art were made by Ale Sordi. Here it is again.

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Time is of Affliction

Views from both ZFT and BNT universes

[Francesco Gentile for ICE-Z #2, aka PIBKOAPSI for ICE-Z #5]

[ICE-Z #2, Rome, Italy, June 9-10, 2006, ZFT universe]

According to Multiverse science, more than one universe exists. Hugh Everett was one of the most important scientists involved in it, with his many-worlds interpretation. Putting aside quantum theory and math, a simplistic but effective way to describe it, is to consider reality at a certain configuration C (a certain universe in a certain state) and imagine that, starting from C, infinite other universes can follow as a consequence from C, according to different behaviours of the various elements that constitute C. However due to our limitation, all we can experience is one universe, one time-line, but somewhere else other universes are developing, and information could theoretically flow between these universes. To give an example, there could be a universe started on December 4, 1993 we experienced, in which Laurel Canyon decided differently as for the Frank Zappa legacy. This is not to assert that Zappa Family Trust universe may change, rather, that information may flow.

So if time is of affliction here, in some other universe it could be still of a lot of afflictions. But something went differently on what we are going to call the BNT universe for convenience (where BNT stands for Big Note Trust), opposed to the ZFT universe we all know. And we had a flow of information from a particular state of BNT universe placed in time in 2012, in space in Barcelona, and esemplasticly during the fifth edition of ICE-Z. What follows is this information from the BNT universe. As we will see there is a lot in common with the ZFT one, but as far as music issued, there is a lot of different fun there!

[ICE-Z #5, Barcelona, Spain, August 16, 2012, BNT universe]

While US and the world had been facing a perverse number of republican presidents in a row, in ten years from the dawning of the Vaulternative label on August 16, 2002, BNT has produced a catalogue worth of 20 titles, that includes also some DTS items. A great feat! FZ addicted around the globe can try to be satisfied (actually, they are never fully satisfied with the catalogue, that’s why they are addicted!), also considering that between 1994 and 2001 BNT issued the last FZ fully produced projects. Trance-fusion and Dance Me This, both published in 2001, closed the Zappa opus, i.e. the 69 albums and a bunch of old singles conceived, arranged, edited, mixed and produced by the composer. The other 22 titled issued (15 by Vaulternative and 5 by DTS, plus Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa, a Memorial Tribute and Everything is Healing Nicely) have to be considered differently, since they lack one or more of the phases that constitutes the creative process followed by Frank Zappa (special case of course for the 5.1 versions of OS and A(‘)). Though, they are precious to enjoy, reconstruct and study the career of the composer, and most of them are completely pleasurable even by a person not so addicted like me! Hopefully more is on his way!

Let’s cruise with the 20 albums released from 2002 on then, and try to briefly consider each and every one of them with the eye of History!

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FZ:OZ

FZ:OZ
(VR 2002-1, August 16, 2002, 2 CDs)
June 25, 1973, Hordern Pavillion, Sydney, Australia.
Great show, great n.1 for Vaulternative, great delegate of the February – September 1973 line-up, barely known (only a few officially released bits) even though this very show has been heavily bootlegged. Mainly an instrumental project, the missing link between the wazoo ensembles and the well known October 1973 – December 1974 era with Napoleon Murphy Brock as front singing-blowing-dancing man. Jean-Luc Ponty and Ian Underwood were in the band for their last tour with FZ, and there was a lot of room for them to improvise. Furthermore, the program includes some items you can’t miss. First of all Farther Oblivion, an unreleased settlement consisting of parts of Greggery Peccary (Steno Pool / This is Big Swifty / Any Gimmick or Gizmo / Is your Wife Snoring? / We Have Got the Little Answers / Invention of the Calendar), Be-Bop Tango and Cucamonga, one of the most eloquent revelations of the Conceptual Continuity in the Project/Object (see also VR2010-2 below). Finally, you can’t also miss Yellow Snow Suite and a swank version of Inca Roads. A perfect starter to me!

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Oh, Atlantis!

Oh, Atlantis!
(VR 2003-1, February 4, 2003, 2 CDs)
December 11, 1980, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California.
The fall 1980 tour is a special one: a few months of a link between the end of the seventies, represented by Colaiuta, and the beginning of eighties, represented by the youngest Vai. The music was tight and tense, the performances precise, the US audience remarkably enthusiastic. This is the end of a short tour, this is Zappa and Soup and Old Clothes at home, via The Illinois Enema Bandit. I need more fall 1980 music!

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Spiffy Teenage Boogies

Spiffy Teenage Boogies
(VR 2003-2, November 8, 2003, 2 CDs)
May 24, 1969, Rockpile, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
We were longing for it, we had been hardly living without! The MOI at their best, right before the end of their too short trip in a fantastic show, quite famous between tape traders, now in the magnificence of the real sixties live Canadian stereo. This sonic object has an essential role to reveal what was the MOI live act like. FZ somehow concealed this all through his editing scissors. He used a lot of this ‘69 vintage material in his albums but never full length (see YCDTOSA 5 1969 recordingz). This is a perfect chance to discover the MOI live project listening to a few rare never before issued gems, like the opening number, aka Interlude between tape traders (FZ introduces it as Teenage Overture, saying that “probably won’t be out on record for another 5 o 6 months”!).

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Time is of Affliction

Time is of Affliction
(VR 2004-1, April 6, 2004, 2 CDs)
September 15, 1972, Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany.
Eight dates of a wheelchaired sort of a tour, 20 musicians on stage, no official marks in the FZ opus, of course one of the best kept FZ secrets for us Zappa addicted. One should say “since this material never found his way through any album, there must be something wrong in these performances for the FZ standard”, another one (like me) says “never mind, I know the stuff, it’s gorgeous and jazzy, and it smells rightfully funny, also, I know your point is right, that’s why I won’t entirely consider it like a FZ album, but one must say the same of all the other Vaulternative titles, however I’m interested into them all, for one hundred reasons I don’t need to explain now”. Great highlight: the first appearance for The Adventures of Greggery Peccary, tough in a reduced arrangement if compared with the FZ approved one.

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Raw Unbridledness

Raw Unbridledness
(DTS 1125, January 15, 2005, 2 DVDs)
December 8/9/10, 1973, The Roxy, Los Angeles, California.
If you had a time machine when and where would you spend a week? I for one only knew it would be on December, but I couldn’t decide if would be LA or NYC, ‘73 or ‘76. Thanks to this amazing audiovisual object, now I know I would decide for NYC! It would be a suffered decision, but at least as far as LA I may go in heavy video rotation! The Roxy performances, 4 hours uncut, mixed by FZ in 1987, or so they say.

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Imaginary Diseases
(VR 2005-1, August 24, 2005, 1 CD)
October / December 1972, various US and Canada dates.
The wazoo world is back, here in his petit 10-musicians group incarnation. FZ addicted are hungry of this 1972 material after a long time of affliction, and this title is a second blessed relief. The program includes two of the most chased unreleased FZ compositions: Imaginary Deseases and Rollo (also to be revealed in QuAUDIPHILIAc in a very different 1975 settlement). There’s a lot of great band improvisation on these pieces, and the written themes are an absolute must! Also, we have the chance to listen to Further O’Blivion in the famous (to the tape traders) arrangement also performed by the Feb – Sep 1973 band but never released officially. This petit wazoo has a lot more to say, like the still unreleased Little Dots and a proto Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?, we do hope there will be more on the way.

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QuAUDIOPHILIAc
(DTS 1205, February 26, 2006, 1 DVD-A)
Various studio and live quad documents 1970-1978, program and a few editing by Dweezil.
Beautiful, surprising and controversial, are three of the more recurrent adjectives that have been used by listeners everywhere for this first multi-channel FZ audio object. Zappa did some multi-channel mixes throughout his career, this works deserve to be published, the album contains thrilling material (Chunga Basement with a great Zappa-Underwood interplay), some interesting mix (Wild Love with his high reverberated vocal tracks that reminds the Doreen mix included in the never published Crush All Boxes), but a few questions arise: if the Royce Hall shows (September 1975) are in this shape, why don’t we listen to the entire unpublished set? Why did you use this risky Läther type segues (everybody feels it sounds like an high end bootleg)? Now that we are into a quad world, what ever happened to the multi-channel mix of N-Lite aired in the halls during the Yellow Shark shows?

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Joe’s Corsage
(VR 2006-1, September 18, 2006, 1 CD)
Various studio and live ca. 1965, some of them mixed in 1989 by FZ and Bob Stone (for some kind of Lost Episodes project?).
BNT goes further with another nuggets project, and here is the MOI in his proto – but ready to go – aesthetic. This is 1965, when they used to go back and forth from rhythm & blues to their early original repertoire. Plus, we have a chance to hear some FZ interview excerpts from the era, and see how already clear was the FZ analysis of the music business. A very enjoyable album with a program never heard before even by the most obnoxious bootleggers! The liner notes inform us that Joe is a series.

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FZ:OZ Some More

FZ:OZ Some More
(VR 2007-1, February 21, 2007, 2 CDs)
January 20, 1976, Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia.
Upside down again for another tour that rarely found his way through the Zappa output macrostructure, with the enormous exceptions of landmarks like the Osaka captured Black Napkins and the Hands with a Hammer/Zoot Allures dynamic duo. Zappa enjoyed a lot to interplay with Skinny Ted, but he was not probably entirely satisfied with this group. So pros: explore for the first hi-Australian-fi time this obscure small band, and enjoy the Zappa – Bozzio discourse. Then cons: this music often lacks something, your belly won’t feel filled like after listening to FZ:OZ, the ‘73 take. Anyway it fully deserves to be heard at least to know what was going on live in the Zoot Allures era.

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Joe’s DeXenoSynChronage (or The Ampex Solos)

Joe’s DeXenoSynChronage (or The Ampex Solos)
(VR 2007-2, September 1, 2007, 1 CD)
February and March 1979, various European dates.
This is the kind of anal retentive project that we have ever dreamed that BNT would design. A gigantic praise to the vaultmaister! The subtitle came from a nick, flourished during the Joe’s Garage sessions, given to the guitar solos used in the mix, all of them Feb / Mar 1979 live and xenosynchronized with the studio tracks. Here, in their full original splendour, we at last have the chance to listen to the songs that include all the Joe solos, with the one and only exception of Watermelon. An honoured mention to the March 31 Outside Now (Munich, Germany) that gave its guitar solo to Joe’s Outside Now, and that here includes also a brief bass solo and a long keyboard improvisation. Now we know better how creative was the xenochronization process.

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Joe’s Checkage (or The Best Soundchecks you Never Heard in your Life)

Joe’s Checkage (or The Best Soundchecks you Never Heard in your Life)
(VR 2008-1, April 24, 2008, 1 CD)
Various 1988 dates.
Oh anal retentiveness! Joe decided to give maximum fulfilment to the most obsessed between us! This Philadelphia Sleep Dirt / Black Napkins rendition (in an arrangement that dates back in late 1975) deserved light, and it would be a real shame if episodes like this Girl of Ipanema (from Philadelphia again) would not reach the public, the arrangement moves puzzlingly between harmony and dissonance, a real gem. And the guitar loops (the Philly one includes Ipanema!) connecting all the songs in the program, would you miss them?

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Halloween
(DTS 1401, October 31, 2008, 1 DVD-A)
October 27-31, 1978, The Palladium, NYC, NY.
Includes the following video clips: Suicide Chump (October 13, 1978, Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ), Dancin’ Fool (October 21, 1978, Saturday Night Live, NYC, NY). 30 years anniversary for the 1978 Halloween monstro-week, and we have a second multi-channel project, mixed in 5.1 by Joe Chiccarelli. A must have, even if some “part-time theatrical criticizer” claimed that the program would have included different material from those two basses and a very noisy audience days. To me is a very good one, and Ancient Armaments was too scantily represented before in its old style 7 inches vinylic objectification.

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A Zappa Affair

A Zappa Affair
(VR 2009-1, March 1, 2009, 1 CD)
June 16, 1984, Zellerbach Auditorium, University of California, Berkeley, CA.
The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano. Even if FZ was not fully satisfied with this performance (to Society Pages USA #2, 1990: “they’re playing them better than the LSO, faster, more accurately, but all in all, there’s just not enough time or enough money to get everything nailed down to a really perfect”), these recordings are of great interest, not only because provide the only known performance of the orchestral Sinister Footwear, but also because this is one of the very few Zappa controlled orchestral project.

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Overnite Sensation
(DTS 1487, November 21, 2009, 1 DVD-A)
Quadraphonic desperation! Would you prefer to buy any FZ official title in a deluxe 5.1 version, or a complete unreleased MOI/Mothers/FZ live show?

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The Fillmore East Prequel

The Fillmore East Prequel
(VR2010-1, February 10, 2010, 2 CDs)
May 9, 1970, Fillmore East, NYC, NY.
This is a rare, short-lived ensemble, the missing link between the MOI disbanded the year before, and the so called vaudeville band to be formed shortly thereafter. FZ built up this group after the Hot Rats project that gave its best results in studio. To go on stage again, he probably wanted a band larger than the small hot rats band (February and March 1970). So this group, the same that six days later performed in LA with Zubin Mehta and the LA Philharmonic for a very important concert (the 200 Motels premiere), that survived only in bad audience recordings. In this live act past (Collins, Mundi, Motorhead, the Tiny Sick Tears medley) and future (Dumbar, Simmons, Wonderful Wino) coexist in a group that was going to bring in Flo & Eddie very soon. Also thanks to Ian Underwood and Don Preston, some highlights: King Kong that includes Igor’s Boogie, LHIUTI and Holiday in Berlin from the just printed BWS. One year later (Fillmore East, June 1971) they will be sounding differently.

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Conceptual Moe vs Chromium-Plated Proto Sy

Conceptual Moe vs Chromium-Plated Proto Sy
(VR2010-2, July 29, 2010, 3 CDs)
September 17, 1978, Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA.
Project/Object, Conceptual Continuity. Have you ever tried to explain that P/O “contains plans and nonplans”? Have you ever subsequently asked to “Imagine the head of a pin. On the head of this pin is an amazingly detailed illustration of some sort” and then to “imagine this pin is not a pin… it’s a musical note with a corresponding physical action”. It is not so easy. But these recordings here may help. Sy Borg and Moe’s Vacation reveal plans. Little House I Used to Live In and Pound for a Brown are “precisely calculated event-structures designed to accommodate the mechanics of fate” (“noplans”), and disclose details in term of “the conceptual continuity of the group’s output macrostructure”, if you think to where they came from. There “always has been, a conscious control of thematic and structural elements flowing through each album, live performance, and interview”. It’s almost 20 years now that the “output macrostructure” had an abrupt halt. September 1978 was right in the middle (1964-1993), from there you can see a lot: Joe’s Garage and its ikewillisness (Ike is here to stay for ten years), the writings of orchestral works (Moe), the MOI (Uncle Meat is here too), the dawning of Tinseltown Rebellion and YAWYI (Easy Meat, Bamboozled, The Meek, Suicide Chump, Conehead). Don’t see it like an anthology, it was work in progress connected back and forward, with 1978 eyebrows. “SOMEBODY IN THAT AUDIENCE OUT THERE KNOWS WHAT WE’RE DOING, AND THAT PERSON IS GETTING OFF ON IT BEYOND HIS/HER WILDEST COMPREHENSIONS.” [Quoted text from ’INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIAL’, Circular, vol. 3, number 29, September 20, 1971].

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Joe’s XMASage
(VR 2010-3, December 21, 2010, 1 CD)
Joe is back for Xmas with a controversial release. The material is from the early sixties pre-mothers era (1962-1965), half spoken episodes, half musical numbers, more a documentary than a real album. The Xmas hook is given by the first spoken episode, where FZ makes a sarcastic report to his first wife Kay Sherman, of a Christmas dance at the Mormon Church Recreation Hall in Pomona. Xmas is also part of the title of track 10: Mousie’s First Xmas. This number and The Moon Will Never Be the Same constitute probably the most intriguing part of the album (2 minutes!): electronics on the left channel, an acustic chamber combo on the right. A trace of the laboratory that thirty years later will produce Civilization Phaze III. The FZ maniac is glad to listen to a few never released nuggets, but she/he will go through this more to investigate than for pure fun.

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Apostrophe (‘)
(DTS 1523, August 2, 2011, 1 DVD-A)
A quad excentrifugal forz kept me, poor insignificant bi-dimensional kind of a putrid stereophonic insect (PIBKOAPSI), away from it.

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Claremont Hardcore Fury

Claremont Hardcore Fury
(VR2011-2, October 20, 2011)
April 11, 1975, Bridges Auditorium, Pomona College, Claremont, CA.
For those of us who think that we did not have enough bongo fury, here is a chance. This is the first date of the Zappa/Beefheart/Mothers spring 1975 tour. The Captain is back, and he and FZ are at home to start off a new thing, and you can feel the thrill. Also, this is the first date for Terry Bozzio, already at ease with FZ soloing, and playing Echidna/Wash That Thing for this 2 months tour only. The program includes a very rare live performance of Orange Claw Hammer (from Trout Mask Replica), and two unreleased Zappa songs: Velvet Sunrise and Portuguese Lunar Landing. The latter seems to be mysteriously reappeared during the 1981 rehearsals, but never faced a FZ produced album. However, it deserves a place somewhere to further go deep into the Frank Zappa aesthetic of monsters.

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Joe’s Domage
(VR 2012-1, May 15, 2012, 1 CD)
Joe’s saga explores wazoo rehearsals, not that much music to enjoy, rather a chance to experience the rehearsal process. The voice of FZ closes the album: “I’ll tell you what the story is on the recording of this material. I don’t want to take it into the studio until you can play all that stuff from memory and it feels natural to do the stuff. That’s the reason I’m going about it this way, rather than just lay charts in front of everybody . . .”. And before this excerpt, one of the few almost complete music episodes of the album: Another Whole Melodic Section. That is the obscure Interlude that in 1969 Zappa presented as to be published soon (see Spiffy Teenage Boogies)! Quite weak, if you think at it as a FZ album, however, after 10 years of unleashed live acts and succulent nuggets, it may be worthwhile listening to rehearsals too (especially when you know that the real thing will be back soon!).

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ZFT/BNT universes comparison chart

# Title Issued in ZFT universe Issued in BNT universe BNT cover
1 FZ:OZJune 25, 1973, Hordern Pavillion, Sydney, Australia. no VR 2002-1, August 16, 2002, 2 CDs Ale
2 Oh, Atlantis!December 11, 1980, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California. no VR 2003-1, February 4, 2003, 2 CDs Ale
3 Spiffy Teenage BoogiesMay 24, 1969, Rockpile, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. no VR 2003-2, November 8, 2003, 2 CDs Ale
4 Time is of AfflictionSeptember 15, 1972, Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany. no VR 2004-1, April 6, 2004, 2 CDs Ale
5 Raw UnbridlednessDecember 8/9/10, 1973, The Roxy, Los Angeles, California. no DTS 1125, January 15, 2005, 2 DVDs Ale
6 Imaginary DiseasesOctober / December 1972, various US and Canada dates. CD, Zappa Records ZR 20001, January 13, 2006 VR 2005-1, August 24, 2005, 1 CD Same as ZFT
7 QuAUDIOPHILIAc DVD-A, Barking Pumpkin/DTS 1125, September 14, 2004 DTS 1205, February 26, 2006, 1 DVD-A Same as ZFT
8 Joe’s Corsage CD, Vaulternative VR 20041, May 30, 2004 VR 2006-1, September 18, 2006, 1 CD Same as ZFT
9 FZ:OZ Some MoreJanuary 20, 1976, Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia. As FZ:OZ2CDs, Vaulternative VR 2002-1, August 16, 2002 VR 2007-1, February 21, 2007, 2 CDs Ale
10 Joe’s DeXenoSynChronage(or The Ampex Solos)February and March 1979, various European dates. no VR 2007-2, September 1, 2007, 1 CD Ale
11 Joe’s Checkage(or The Best Soundchecks you Never Heard in your Life)Various 1988 dates. no VR 2008-1, April 24, 2008, 1 CD Ale
12 HalloweenOctober 27-31, 1978, The Palladium, NYC, NY. DVD-A, Vaulternative/DTS 1101, February 4, 2003 DTS 1401, October 31, 2008, 1 DVD-A Same as ZFT
13 A Zappa AffairJune 16, 1984, Zellerbach Auditorium, University of California, Berkeley, CA. no VR 2009-1, March 1, 2009, 1 CD Ale
14 Overnite Sensation no DTS 1487, November 21, 2009, 1 DVD-A Same as stereo issued
15 The Fillmore East PrequelMay 9, 1970, Fillmore East, NYC, NY. no VR2010-1, February 10, 2010, 2 CDs Ale
16 Conceptual Moe vs Chromium-Plated Proto SySeptember 17, 1978, Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA. no VR2010-2, July 29, 2010, 3 CDs Ale
17 Joe’s XMASage CD, Vaulternative VR 20051, December 21, 2005 VR2010-3, December 21, 2010, 1CD Same as ZFT
18 Apostrophe (‘) no DTS 1523, August 2, 2011, 1 DVD-A Same as stereo issued
19 Claremont Hardcore FuryApril 11, 1975, Bridges Auditorium, Pomona College, Claremont, CA. no VR2011-2, October 20, 2011 Ale
20 Joe’s Domage CD, Vaulternative VR 20042, October 1, 2004 VR 2012-1, May 15, 2012, 1 CD Same as ZFT

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The Resentment Listener

Posted: May 12, 2011 in concert report, zappa

In jazz to give homage to the music of someone else means to let the original compositions pass through the filter of a personal language, in terms of sound, arrangements and performance style. Sometimes with some reference to the spirit of the original composer.

From my point of view it would be wrong to expect sound, arrangements and performance style similar to the original ones. If the original composer is Frank Zappa, I do not expect the jazz project in question being zappish, nor zappaesque, even less zappoid, to use three categories described by Simon Prentis (“Monkish Meditations”, The Rondo Hatton Report, March 2010, www.rhreport.net). If I got them right, a performance in the spirit of Frank would be zappish. You have a zappaesque effect instead, if some FZ superficial elements (i.e. odd time signatures, satire, poodles, etc) have been used but the result is not in the spirit. Finally, a zappoid rendition comes into sight when the performers insists on eccentricity, sex obsessions and emphasizes rock clichés (or all the typical cheap Zappa stereotypes usually delivered by rock press). Where does the Frank Zappa spirit lie, that is a question to be discussed in deep, trying to put any resentment aside.

In most cases something different should happen if an orchestra plays written music. The performers are expected to try to do their best to interpret the original according to the spirit of the composer. They may have their own sound, their own style in playing but they should adhere to what is written. In the case of Zappa I do expect such an orchestra to be zappish.

Two performances of FZ music in the afore mentioned realms took place in Rome in the first months of 2011:

February 4
Parco della Musica Contemporanea Ensemble (PMCE)
Johnathan Stockhammer (Director)
Get Ready to Zappa

March 25-26
Stefano Bollani
Sheik Yer Zappa

Unexpectedly enough, I enjoyed much more the jazz performance than the orchestral one.

When I first read about the orchestral concert I instantly decided to go mainly because of the Director involved: Johnathan Stockhammer is between the most authoritative conductors in the field of contemporary music, and has recorded a Zappa album with the Ensemble Modern (Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions). I also read about some “unreleased music”, I was skeptical but also interested. Then I read about the participation of Gail Zappa who have authorized the performance, I was interested too.

On the other hand, Stefano Bollani, the leader of the Sheik Yer Zappa project is a great piano player, probably one of the most gifted contemporary Italian ones. However his playing, though technically near to perfect, sounds often cold to me. Also, he has a sense of humour that I have not always appreciated. During his live performances he quite often has a sort of an anchorman audience participation time during which he asks to challenge him or vice-versa. As far as Zappa, in 2003 he included “Let’s Move to Cleveland” in his Småt Småt piano solo album, a precise rendition near to the original ‘84 zavodish style. And now that I am thinking to Allan Zavod, Bollani knows exactly how to perform a volcano solo (and he seems to enjoy them very much) as well as he knows how to perform in a lot of different styles (consciously being rarely –ish and more often –esque, or –oid). In short I did not follow every Bollani move, though I am well aware of his mastery.

Stefano Bollani - Rome, March 25, 2011

That said, and considering that it would have been the first orchestral concert of Zappa music in Rome ever, I was longing for Get Ready to Zappa and I reacted coldly at the Sheik Yer Zappa news.

However the more the fourth of February approached, the more I feared a flop. In fact in the previous weeks I tried to find information about the project, but quite nothing surfaced. Until a few days before I did not even know the music I would have eventually heard, then I tried www.zappa.com and in the performance section I found the following:

February 04, 2011: Rome, ITALY – Contemporanea

“Dog/Meat”
“The Dangerous Kitchen
“Revised Music for Low Budget Orchestra”
“Lumpy Gravy”
“Aerobics in Bondage”
“Moggio”
“The Black Page”
“Outside Now Again”
“Put A Motor in Yourself”
“Lumpy Gravy”
“The Adventures of Greggery Peccary”

Conductor: Jonathan Stockhammer and the Director Oscar Pizzo
Venue: Auditorium Parco della Musica in Sinopoli Hall

Nothing more from ZFT. I said to myself Lumpy Gravy live in 2011 and Gail is silent? Her favourite piece of music, executed for the first time in 44 years and nobody screams? ZFT has also a sort of press agency (www.shorefire.com/clients/zappa/) and nothing from there also.

Get Ready to Zappa leaflet (detail)

Then February the fourth arrived and from the concert program I got some more information. “Lumpy Gravy 1” would have included “Sink Trap”, “Gum Joy (oh no)”, “Up and Down”, while “Lumpy Gravy 2”, “Foamy Soaky”, “Let’s Eat Out”, “Teen-Age Grand Finale”; i.e. the Lumpy Gravy ‘67 Capitol Records titles minus “IV Local Butcher”, “V Gypsy Airs”, “VI Hunchy Punchy” (all of them issued in 2009 in The Lumpy Money Project/Object). The two  Lumpy Gravy  suites, “Aerobics in Bondage” (previously known only as the synclavier piece included in Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers of Prevention, 1985) and “Outside now Again” (previously known only as the synclavier piece included in The Perfect Stranger, 1984) have been world première. Also, the program lists all the orchestra members, all of them highly qualified professionals, some in the jazz camp, some in the contemporary music field (I know some of them and I later checked all the others). Hubert Steiner is a special case, he is also the lead guitar player and arranger of the Ensemble Ascolta, who owns one of the most interesting ZFT authorized projects ever, a project that has already given a chance to listen to two unreleased synclavier compositions (“Samba Funk, Part II” and “Ouverture to Uncle Sam, Part I” both performed live in Berlin on July 14, 2007). Also, Ascolta reports that a Zappa album with unreleased music is under consideration (see www.ascolta.de).

However, what I feared turned out to be true: a one-shot deal event, to appear and then shortly disappear (no more information nor much real reviews later on). And the appearance has been ruined by frequent mistakes, missed starts and losses of cohesion. In general, I had the feeling it was the typical sense of confusion of an under-rehearsed performance. A few incidents I remember: the almost unrecognizable (rhetorical resentful exaggeration here) first minute of “Dog Breath”, the first minute of “Moggio” (I think almost 10 musicians did not start), a confused “G-Spot Tornado”. It was sad and incomprehensible.

Later on I had some second hand news (twice from two different sources) about rehearsals time and it seems that PMCE have had 5 days. It is enough to watch to AAAFNRAA. Yellow Shark Rehearsals to understand why 5 days is a very short time. Anyway, at the end of the concert, very well welcomed by the audience (here a different reasoning should start concerning Zappa as a cultural icon), Gail made his way through the steno pool, I mean the stage, and made her speech. She looked touched, and I am sure she was. She delivered nice words to the world, the audience, the music. But I remained, and still remain, astonished. I really did not understand her approach to this project (project?), the emotional side of my thoughts said to me she is sincere, but the rational side reports an empty void of no idea. However, I said to myself: I may not understand her, maybe I could understand the musicians, so a few days later I wrote them (to the Director management, Steiner and other two) reporting my sad feelings and asking a great “how can you managed to participate to a project like this?”. And the clearest between all the possible answers was NO ANSWER!

Then after the PMCE concert, while still looking for more information about Get Ready to Zappa (quite a paradox since they were not ready), some information about Sheik Yer Zappa started to circulate. The band is an international jazz super group: Josh Roseman (trombone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jim Black (drums). I was very happy about that because Sun Rooms by Jason Adasiewicz is one of my favourite 2010 albums, and because I heard a lot about Jim Black and I was interested to hear him live. So I decided to go and stopped to look for more information. I just was happy to go to a jazz concert played by great quite young musicians. And they eventually sounded like this, not zappish, nor zappaesque, neither zappoid, I was wrong to be a bit worried that it would have turned out to be a zappoid experience. They all delivered a great interplay in the improvised sections, even though something may be adjusted concerning written parts. For instance I have the feeling that the trombone player missed some lines at the beginning of the “Uncle Meat Variations”, but it could be part of their approach, they let the improvisation begins at any moment. After the concert I read an interview to Bollani, he said that it is the first time they play together and he did not want to rehearse that much because he wanted to let music develop as free as possible. In this case not to have long rehearsals was part of the plan, in the other case was the consequence of not giving enough resources to the project.

Jason Adasiewicz and Jim Black (background) - Rome, March 25, 2011

Back to Sheik Yer Zappa, they have a great sound, especially thanks to the vibes and to Adasiewicz who is fantastic. Black, Roseman, and Grenadier give great contributions, particularly I did enjoy the powerful drumming. Finally I must say that I was surprised by the Bollani performance, I feared a lot of zappoid inserts, but almost nothing like this happened. Also, he was a peer between the others, if not when he have been asking to come back to the theme, you would not say he was the leader. He made an appropriate choice in terms of sound to add an electric piano to the set, and not to use any guitar (in an interview he stated that he did not want to give any clue of a reference to Zappa as a guitarist). Finally, here is the setlist:

“Theme From Lumpy Gravy”
“Blessed Relief”
“Cosmik Debris”
“Bobby Brown” (Bollani on lead vocals)
“Bollani Original 1”
“Eat that Question”
“Let’s Move To Cleveland”
“Bollani Original 2”
“Peaches en Regalia” (piano & electric piano solo)
“Uncle Meat Variations”
“Theme From Lumpy Gravy” (reprise)

I was not particularly fond of “Bobby Brown” (nothing more than a bizarre jazz ballad with a zappesque use of toy instruments) and of “Peaches” (mainly performed as a zavodish volcano solo, the Bollani way). However I must say that their inclusion in the program answers with a “yes” to the YCDTOSA theoretical question 7: “Does the inclusion of this song help the stylistic flow of the album sequence by providing contrast or relief?”. Zappish!

Eventually my resentful listener self was satisfied, a good jazz performance and a band with a great sound. As far as the arrangements, I understand they want to stay free but he – the resentful – would have enjoyed more written parts, not necessarily FZ literal.

On the other hand, he still remains frustrated about the orchestral performance and hopes for a next, bold, new, breed, breeding Lumpy Gravy live.

Francesco Gentile (May 2011)

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Notes:

Thanks to Luca Fiaccavento who has kindly given permission to include here his photographs of the March 25 Sheik Yer Zappa concert (go to his Flickr page for more, www.flickr.com/people/lucafiaccavento).

Thanks to Zappateers (www.zappateers.com) who let the Sheik Yer Zappa March 23 concert (Poggibonsi – Siena) and the Ascolta plays Zappa concert live in Berlin July 14, 2007 circulate.

Also, through YouTube some other Ascolta plays Zappa and Sheik Yer Zappa stuff is available.

On the other hand, not much signs of life of Get Ready to Zappa, the only bit available through YouTube is the Gail Speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoZGd2GcUlY, May 2011)

PMCE
Paolo Fratini: flute
Fabio Bagnoli: oboe
Paolo Ravaglia: clarinet
Luca Cipriano: bass clarinet
Maurizio Giammarco: saxophones
Marco Dionette: bassoon
Tommaso Santangelo: horn
Andrea Di Mario: trumpet
Luca Giustozzi: trombone
Pierluigi Ausili: tuba
Luca Nostro: guitar
Hubert Steiner: guitar
Rosario Moschitta: mandolin
Filippo Fattorini: violin
Paolo Sasso: violin
Alessio Toro: viola
Marco Algenti: cello
Massimo Ceccarelli: double bass
Lucio Perotti: piano
Giuseppe Burgarella: piano
Antonio Caggiano: percussion
Flavio Tanzi: percussion
Giuseppe Marino: drums, percussion

Der Ressentiment-hörer
Loyalty to the work, which they [the resentment listeners] set against the bourgeois ideal of musical showmanship, becomes an end in itself, not so much a matter of adequately presenting and experiencing the meaning of works as of guarding zealously against any minute deviation from what – impeachably enough – they take for the performing practice of past ages.

Theodor W. Adorno
Introduction to the Sociology of Music
(Einleitung in die Musiksoziologie, 1962)
Translated from the German by E. B. Ashton
New York: Seabury Press (A Continuum Book), 1976

Bogus start

Posted: May 8, 2011 in start

This blog is temporarily conceived only as the home of a concert report (see next post). I’m not sure if some more will follow.