Orchestra Spaziale meets Zappafrank

Posted: January 9, 2014 in fz related album review, live concert photo, zappa
Orchestra Spaziale meets Zappafrank, cover by Vanni Spazzoli

Orchestra Spaziale meets Zappafrank, cover by Vanni Spazzoli

At last, 13 years from his debut, at the end of 2013 a special edition of the project Orchestra Spaziale meets Zappafrank has been released by A Simple Lunch, an independent Italian “net label” from Bologna. Every title issued by this label is digitally available, and a limited number of cd-r physical editions with special artwork are also available.

The cover of the Orchestra Spaziale album is a painting by Vanni Spazzoli and can be seen in its real dimensions in some pictures taken during the “Magazzino dei ricordi” exhibition held at the art gallery L’ARIETE in Bologna (November 12, 2011 | January 10, 2012).

A picture shot at the "Magazzino dei ricordi" exhibition available through galleriaariete.it

A picture shot at the “Magazzino dei ricordi” exhibition available through galleriaariete.it

A Simple Lunch will be presented in the same art gallery on January 11, 2014.

The Orchestra Spaziale has been put together by Giorgio Casadei in 1998 to create a big band able to play an assorted repertoire with references to easy listening, soundtracks, jazz, pop, liscio (a folk dance originating from the northern Italian region of Romagna) and original compositions. What follows is a sample list of deities given by Giorgio: Anthony Braxton, Homer Simpson, Burt Bacharach, David Lynch, Calvin and Hobbes, Mel Brooks, Derek Bailey, James Last, Spider Man, Roswell Rudd, Betty Page, Don Ellis, Carla Bley, Zagor, Zandozy, Raffaella Carrà, Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Don DeLillo, Ringo Starr and Clint Eastwood.

The Zappafrank project has been commissioned in 2000 by Consorzio I Teatri di Reggio Emilia for the “Di Nuovo Musica” festival. Giordano Montecchi, a musicologist who knew Casadei and his Orchestra, gave the idea of a Zappa project for a young big band, and it worked fine!

The project refers to the asteroid of the same name.

Most of the Zappafrank live shows have been performed between 2000 and 2005, some of them have been recorded. The A Simple Lunch album has been edited from at least three sets. Further sources has been used, in the case of Uncle Meat according to a xenochrone process. In the album Italian notes Casadei explains:

The central section includes overlapped unreleased material from totally independent sources. The xenochrone contribution has been given by Dencs Daniel Csaba (drums), Giorgio Casadei (guitar, bass), Alessandro Lamborghini (reverse aesthetics).

Complete credits are available through the A Simple Lunch soundcloud site, where the whole album is available for audio streaming.

Here is the album program:

1. Regyptian Strut (§) 4’17”
2. Let’s make the water turn black (§) 2’54”
Solo: Marco Zanardi (tenor sax)
3. The torture never stops (*, §) 8’28”
Solos: Alessandro Lamborghini (guitar) e Vincenzo Vasi (vocals)
4. Uncle Meat / Right There (*, §) 6’54”
Solos: Alfredo Impullitti (piano), Vincenzo Vasi (theremin), Giorgio Casadei (guitar)
5. Pygmy Twylyte (you can’t do that mazurca on stage anymore) (*) 10’06”
solos: Massimo Semprini (tenor sax), Federico Tassani (trombone), Adriano Pancaldi (tenor sax), Manolo Nardi (trumpet)
6. How Could I be such a fool (*) 4’39”
trumpets: Daniele Giardina, Manolo Nardi, Mario Gigliotti
solos: Ivan Valentini (tenor sax), Marina Ciccarelli (trombone)
7. Stick it Out (§) 4’19”
solo: Giorgio Casadei (guitar)
8. Holiday in Berlin (§, °) 6’35”
solos: Adriano Pancaldi (soprano sax), Massimo Semprini (tenore sax with the himself ensemble)
9. RDNZL (*) 8’27”
solos: Ivan Valentini (tenore sax), Federico Tassani (trombone)
10. Outside Now (§) 6’05”
solo: Giorgio Casadei (guitar)
11. Oh No – Orange County (*, §) 8’37

* = Reggio Emilia, Teatro Ariosto, November 5, 2000, “Di Nuovo Musica” festival, section: “il suono e l’onda”
§ = Bologna, Container Club, December 2, 2003
° = Cagli, Teatro Comunale, December 29, 2005, “il suono di una mano sola” festival

Regyptian Strut is a perfect opener, the arrangement is faithful to the original and gives a great introduction to the sound of the band. Theremin parts are noteworthy!

The Let’s Make the Water Turn Black rendition has the right irony and works fine to prepare the entry of The Torture Never Stops, with an arrangement full of new details, perfectly in tune with the spirit of the song. A guitar/(tortured) vocal duet plays the improvised section. Vincenzo Vasi powerful voice is in evidence, also due to a strong Italian accent that gives further eccentricity to the piece (Bizzarre!).

Time to low the pressure a little bit, the first part of Uncle Meat takes this function. After the theme, a quiet piano solo follows, by Alfredo Impullitti, a great musician passed away too early in 2002. Then the theme again, followed by an improvised section with xenochrone inserts that segues into the Right There finale.

Again further new details in the varied arrangement of Pygmy Twylyte. In the original presentation of the project Casadei explains how he wanted to use different styles, as Zappa often did, particularly in his own different arrangements of this piece (compare Roxy and YCDTOSA 2). So Mazurca (a style of lisco) and rock blues alternate. Also, the beginning of the YCDTOSA 2 guitar solo has been transcribed and rearranged here for winds, a great written section that preludes to the improvised finale, that goes into Heavy Duty Judy, which unfortunately fades out. HDJ have been actually used as an intro to the following song, cut off here maybe because of the Italian speech in the intro. In spite of this brutal fade out finale, Pygmy Twylyte is one of the highlights of the album.

Time to low again the tone with a gorgeous Mexican intro to How Could I Be Such a Fool, rendered with a dramatic cadenza in which further Mexican elements are disclosed. The finale is an Orchestra fade out very effectively conceived, but the effect is lost when Stick it Out harshly enters. In the radio performance mentioned below, the transition is into Holiday in Berlin and it works better. Anyway, going back to the album, the Orchestra Spaziale version of Stick it Out is extremely tight and the band resembles the Don Ellis Orchestra. The song ends with a short Casadei solo on guitar who quotes Jimi Hendrix (Third Stone from the Sun) and the Beatles (Day Tripper).

The transition into Holiday in Berlin works properly here and the arrangements is faithful to the original, the closing improvised section is given to the saxophones who play a few bars alone in the emptiness of a silent Orchestra.

A powerful RDNZL follows. After the theme and a great tenor sax solo (in the position of the Zappa solo in the Studio Tan version), the Orchestra gives its best. Then another great solo for trombone in the “latin” section followed by a Don Ellis-que arrangement for a great finale.

Outside Now is perfect here to low again the tone. Giorgio Casadei takes his longest solo here, a touching tribute to Zappa.

Oh No – Orange County closes the set. The first part follows the original arrangement, then, using a sort of mambo-cha-cha-cha tempo, the piece deviates, and after a sort of vocal solo, the finale is for full Orchestra and baritone sax. Again a fade out here, in the original live shows the finale is a vehicle for the presentation of the band. In the case of the album the band is not the same on every track, that is maybe why it has been cut off.

This album gives a chance to discover a FZ project little known outside Italy, which deserves more international recognition.

The approach of Giorgio Casadei to this repertoire and to read the Zappa attitude at jazz can be summarized through the following quote from an article by Jon Newey entitled “Broadway the Hard Way”, published by Jazzwise on the December 2003/January 2004 issue (n. 71).

Jazzwise n.71, December 2003/January 2004

Jazzwise n.71, December 2003/January 2004

Grand Wazoo has a distinct jazzy feel throughout. The form is intro, theme, solos and theme. However the theme is 87 bars in length with key, rhythm and theme shifts with a blowing section that has carefully marshalled background figures ebbing and flowing throughout against an intriguing rock-swing feel generated by the rhythm section.

These few words give the right picture of what a jazz big band should consider to render Zappa, going beyond the straight exposition of the main theme, and taking into account some specific work to arrange the rhythm section.


RAI Radio3 December 6, 2003 event flyer

RAI Radio3 December 6, 2003 event flyer

As a final note, it is worth mention that Zappafrank show has been presented live in studio at RAI Radio3, one of the Italian public radio channels, on December 6, 2003, 10 years after Zappa passed away. The Zappafrank album has been issued 20 years after, and in the his notes Giorgio Casadei mentions all the people who supported the project and the 2003 RAI Radio3 event, which has been broadcasted again by the same radio on December 4, 2013. The 2013 RAI Radio3 tribute show has been named NON MANGIATE LA NEVE GIALLA (Don’t You Eat the Yellow Show).

Here are setlist and credits for the 2003 RAI Radio3 concert.

1 Regyptian Strut
2 Let’s Make the Water Turn Black
3 The Torture Never Stops / Pygmy Twylyte
4 Heavy Duty Judy Intro / How Could I Be Such a Fool
5 Holiday in Berlin / Run Home Slow
6 Outside Now
7 Uncle Meat
9 The Deathless Horsie / Oh No / Son of Orange County
10 Stick it Out

11 Anything
12 You Are What You Is

Giorgio Casadei: conduction, guitar, arrangements
Massimo Semprini: alto sax, tenor sax, flute
Ivan Valentini: alto sax, tenor sax, soprano sax
Adriano Pancaldi: tenor sax, soprano sax
Marco Zanardi: baritone sax, tenor sax, clarinet
Daniele Giardina: trumpet
Manolo Nardi: trumpet
Mario Gigliotti: trumpet
Federico Tassani: trombone
Marina Ciccarelli: trombone
Marco Dalpane: piano, keyboards
Alessandro Lamborghini: guitar
Andrea Taravelli: bass
Claudio Trotta: drums
Vincenzo Vasi: vocals, theremin

This recording is in the Zappateers archives, and is sometimes available somewhere else, today here (titles are sometimes misspelled).

Some picture I shot with my old Nikon F80 are available here. Here is the first one.

Giorgio Casadei at RAI Radio3 Via Asiago 10 studio, Rome, December 6, 2003

Giorgio Casadei at RAI Radio3 Via Asiago 10 studio, Rome, December 6, 2003


Debra Kadabra, issue 25, December 2001

Debra Kadabra, issue 25, December 2001

A real final note for Italian reading persons only. Please find an article by Giorgio Casadei published by Debra Kadabra, the Italian Frank Zappa fanzine (issue 25, December 2001). Here: Orchestra Spaziale meets Zappafrank.


  1. grazie Francesco per la cura, la passione e la competenza con cui ha scritto questo testo. Se non ti dispiace metteremo un link al tuo post dal sito dell’etichetta A SIMPLE LUNCH. Grazie

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