Nel Segno di Zappa

Posted: December 23, 2013 in concert report, live concert photo, zappa
Nel Segno di Zappa - program (photo: courtesy of Guido Harari)

Nel Segno di Zappa – program (photo: courtesy of Guido Harari)

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On December 18, a long Zappa celebration took place in Milan. Two different concerts in a row: for Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, and for rock band. Before the concerts a new Italian book has been presented (“Frank e il Resto del Mondo”, by Alessandra Izzo), and later the same night a video retrospective was played for the audience of the Milan Auditorium.

The event was presented by Barley Arts and LaVerdi, full program available on both web sites (BA, LV).

The Symphonic Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus Giuseppe Verdi of Milano Foundation was instituted in April 2002 to promote and support the Symphonic Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus Giuseppe Verdi of Milano. The first concert has been played by members of the Institution in various ensembles, according to the instrumentation needed. They have been conducted by Danilo Grassi for what looks like a one shoot deal evening.

The program and the performance should be viewed in two parts, being the first the more “classical” one, and the second a Yellow Shark selection. As far as Zappa, let’s say Boulez vs. Ensemble Modern. The “classical” part worked fine: Intégrales has been delivered with the right strenght; Dupree’s Paradise has been rendered with drama due to a tempo slower than the original (see also RAMME); The Perfect Stranger was full of the original ambiguous anxiety; Ragtime was a pleasure, the right balance of fun and tension. Also, I found particularly effective to open with Varèse, not only because he was the idol of such a youth, but it was also appropriate to relate Intégrales with the Boulez-ian Zappa. And Ragtime is the perfect move to Yellow Shark.

However, the rest of the program was unfortunately below the standard to be reasonably expected for such a musical Institution. When more or less performed correctly, the music often had no swing. I may be wrong but this is the typical effect of an under-rehearsed execution (unconfirmed rumors say 5 hours). Dog/Meat was the lowest point of depression, due to a lot of confusion in the winds parts. Be-Bop Tango was quite fine. Questi Cazzi di Piccione worked very well (including the toy pistol finale), en exception for this part of the program, thanks to the string section, who delivered a good performance throughout the whole concert. G-Spot Tornado was played two times in a row (the second as the encore), and take two worked better than take one. I would take this as the evidence of the fact that with more rehearsal time it would have been a great Zappa performance. I will stop here on this matter, is the same old Italian story (see also Get Ready to Zappa), maybe less evident for this night because of the quality of the musicians and of the director.

Danilo Grassi (photo: fg)

Danilo Grassi (photo: fg)

First violin and Danilo Grassi (photo: fg)

First violin and Danilo Grassi (photo: fg)

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Please click here for some other photos of the Orchestra I took.

Elio, of the Elio e le Storie Tese band, acted as the sophisticated Anchorman of the night. You should be aware of this band and of some Italian pop culture to get this hook. In short, we could say he knows how to nasty, his band too, they are all extremely tight and from time to time they have a lot of fun playing Zappa, both as a band (in a few occasions with Ike Willis), and Elio alone with Ossi Duri. In the following, some YouTube videos to have a quick glance over.

Sofa #1 – Elio e le Storie Tese (October 29, 2010, from the “Parla con me” Italian TV show)

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You Are What You Is – Elio e le Storie Tese featuring Ike Willis (April 24, 2000, RTSI “Auditorium Massimo”, Lugano, Switzerland)

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Florentine Pogen – Ossi Duri featuring Elio (October 8, 2004, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Torino, Italy)

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The Nel Segno di Zappa night was again a chance to hear Elio with Ossi Duri, but first was a chance to listen again to Ossi Duri live after 20 years of playing together. They are still a band a young musicians since when they started they were under 10 youngsters! Please visit their web site if you don’t know them, also to get to know about their brand new cds. One of them is entitled Frankamente, features Ike Willis and is a tribute to the music of Frank Zappa (available through iTunes). Please visit the Elio e le Storie Tese web site too, you may be interested to The Lugano Tapes, a great live dvd featuring Ike Willis for four songs.

The rock band side of the Milan celebration had another great guest: Fabio Treves, aka “il Puma di Lambrate” (“Lambrate‘s Cougar”) on harmonica. Fabio played as a guest twice with the 1988 FZ band, on Pound for a Brown in Milan, and on Big Swifty in Genoa. The whole story has been recently told on Blow Up (December 2010 issue) an Italian music magazine. Fabio has a lot to tell also about the never to be realized Dio Fa opera, that would have been the Zappa way to celebrate the Football World Cup to be held in Italy in 1990. The following photo has been taken in 1988.

Frank Zappa and Fabio Treves (photo: Galimberti)

Frank Zappa and Fabio Treves (photo: Galimberti)

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Back to December 18, Ossi Duri were:

Martin Bellavia: guitar, vocals
Alex Armuschio: keyboards, background vocals
Ruben Bellavia: drums, background vocals
Andrea Vigliocco: keyboards, marimba, background vocals
Simone Bellavia: bass

And this was the set list:

The Purple Lagoon (band intro)
The Black Page
Pygmy Twylyte
Echidna’s Arf of You
Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing (fragment)
Son of Orange County
Trouble Every Day
Peaches in Regalia

Elio enters as lead vocalist

City of Tiny Lights
Dancin’ Fool
Broken Hearts Are for Assholes
Stick Out
Crew Slut (feat. Treves)
Cosmic Debris (feat. Treves)
Dice sempre sì (Easy Meat in Italian)
Perché Brucia la Pipì? (Why Does it Hurt When I Pee? in Italian)
Florentin Pogen

Encores
I’m the Slime (Ossi Duri only)
Tell Me You Love Me (feat. Elio & Treves)

A very effective set list for a celebration! We the audience had a lot of fun with this repertoire focused in the 70′, obviously those of us born in the 60′ or the 50′, but also the younger fans. Ossi Duri have a quasi prog-metal sound, the evident reference is the 81/82 FZ band, but the 80′ were a million years ago, and the drums, for instance, sound different here. Listening to the Zappa 70′ through the tight and hard filter of Ossi Duri has been a great pleasure, and Elio gave a great performance on vocals and humor. Finally, the Fabio Treves cameo was amusing and useful to remember that the blues is as important for the FZ “output macrostructure” as musique concrète or moster movies!

Here they are, the monster players, rock side!

Martin Bellavia (photo: fg)

Martin Bellavia (photo: fg)

Alex Armuschio (photo: fg)

Alex Armuschio (photo: fg)

Ruben Bellavia (photo: fg)

Ruben Bellavia (photo: fg)

Andrea Vigliocco  (photo: fg)

Andrea Vigliocco (photo: fg)

Simone Bellavia  (photo: fg)

Simone Bellavia (photo: fg)

Elio (photo: fg)

Elio (photo: fg)

Fabio Treves (photo: fg)

Fabio Treves (photo: fg)

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Some more picture here.

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Comments
  1. […] December 18, 2013 Danilo Grassi conducted The Symphonic Orchestra Giuseppe Verdi of Milano for a Zappa program that included music from The Yellow Shark. As pointed out elsewhere here, the performance sounded […]

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