Archive for February, 2014

"Frank e il resto del mondo" by Alessandra Izzo, Armando Curcio Editore

“Frank e il resto del mondo” by Alessandra Izzo, Armando Curcio Editore

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On December 4, 2013 a peculiar book of stories and feelings related to Frank Zappa has been published in Italy: “Frank e il resto del mondo” by Alessandra Izzo. The author, who came to know the musician in 1982, interviewed an assorted group of persons who have met Zappa for different reasons and in diverse circumstances. The book starts with Alessandra’s personal account, then all the interviews follow, with a short profile of the interviewees.

As expected, a complex picture emerges, some of the persons involved had a chance for a bright relationship with the musician, others didn’t manage to go much beyond the surface, but there is at least one common trait: when the life paths of all these persons joined the Zappa roads, something truly special happened, and marked a significant influence to their life.

The book has not been translated into other languages yet, so this blog asked Alessandra Izzo to reproduce a quote from her own account and from every interview. She has kindly accepted!

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Alessandra Izzo (the author)
I have never forget that first evening and that light conversation, so unique. All in all, our souls were at the same time close and far, however we didn’t meet by chance. Yes, it is true, I was the one who tried to get in touch, but I knew the encounter was going to be special. That night FZ thought me how to forgive, but it needed a lot of years to learn and follow his suggestions. To this day, I thank him with all my heart.

Alessandra Izzo, photo by Andrea Sabatello

Alessandra Izzo, photo by Andrea Sabatello

Patrice “Candy” Zappa (Frank’s sister, musician and author)
My brother was the funniest person on the planet and he had the most witty, beautiful and contagious laugh I have ever known so far.

Bunk Gardner (musician)
Frank was a very talented composer, he had such a great sense of humor and a huge creative streak that could get into everything he did.

Essra Mohawk (musician)
The Mothers had that talent, that strange chemistry, and this was however, largely due to their band leader, Frank Zappa.

Fabio Treves (musician)
His voice, the pauses in his expression, his distinctive way of speaking that definitely reach the heart of a person, and also his slang, his neologisms, all these traits still strike me.

Ferdinando Boero (biologist)
An extremely serious person who always wanted to laugh.

Claudio Trotta (book agent)
It was like dealing with a flooding river, he was overwhelming but in a positive, vital, stimulating sense, he was always a source of inspiration, without a doubt a person to emulate.

Massimo Bassoli (editor)
Among all the people I know, I believe Frank was the one who was better able to enjoy the company of his own imagination.

Ed Mann (musician)
I love Frank, I always miss him. He had an extraordinary electric quality about him that caused me to excel in ways that I had never dreamed of. Playing with him on stage was more fun than any other band I have worked with.

Pamela Des Barres (former rock and roll groupie, author and magazine writer)
What I loved most about Frank was the skill to bring out of every person the BEST, kind of demanding you confess your dreams, your goals, your things, even the more private and intimate.

Rutger Hauer (actor)
I loved him. All parts of him. His mustache. His heavy smoke. His smile.

Ike Willis (musician)
I had LOTS of fun. We laughed a great deal of the time. Frank was the funniest person in the world.

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Rutger Hauer and Alessandra Izzo in June 2009

Rutger Hauer and Alessandra Izzo in June 2009

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As a further tribute to the man from Baltimore, Alessandra sent two little seen pictures shot by Fausto Franceschini at the August 31, 1973 concert in Rome. Thank you Alessandra!

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Frank Zappa, Rome, August 31, 1973, photo by Fausto Franceschini

Frank Zappa, Rome, August 31, 1973, photo by Fausto Franceschini

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Joe’s Camouflage

Posted: February 7, 2014 in album review, zappa
Frank Zappa, Joe's Camouflage, Vaulternative Records, 2014

Frank Zappa, Joe’s Camouflage, Vaulternative Records, 2014

Probably the most amusing Joe installment to date, Joe’s Camouflage combines high appeal for zappaphiles and hard-core listeners of any kind (including resentment ones), with good sound quality, for the most part. Previous episodes in this very special nuggets saga have been always of some interest (the social group quickly depicted above needs all of them for sure), however sometimes not fully enjoyable because of a low-fi sound. Joe’s Domage for instance, is of a great interest concerning the rehearsal process of the Petit Wazoo band and, although short, includes a beautiful unreleased composition, namely Another Whole Melodic Section, also known as Interlude to that social group, performed live by the MOI in 1969. However the low sound quality keeps this object away from digital audio converters for long periods, and it’s a real pity. But Camouflage no, there is a lot new to hear, and all of it is in good stereo, from analog 4 tracks source. Some material derives from Denny Walley’s mono rehearsal cassettes, but luckily it is not the most interesting part, and it’s enjoyable. In a few words, a great ZFT/Joe Travers job, thank you for bringing to existence this otherwise undocumented line-up, who here gives shape to some unreleased music, in a very relaxed studio environment.

The band in question stayed together in 1975 for a short period and never toured. They were: Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals); Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, vocals); Robert “Frog” Camarena (guitar, vocals); Denny Walley (slide guitar, vocals); Novi Novog (viola, vocals); Roy Estrada (bass, vocals), Terry Bozzio (drums); André Lewis (keyboards, vocals, a “special mention” in the booklet). Novi Novog is the only musician who didn’t have other chances with a Zappa band, four of them (Lewis, NMB, Estrada and Bozzio) where in the next Zappa live quintet, if you are part of that social group, you instantly imagine this band live instead of the well-known 1975 live quintet.

The album starts off with the first unreleased piece, in a first take: Phyonix, a quasi-prog effort, keyboards and bass on duty for a linear march cadenza, Bozzio to break the rhythm in pieces, Zappa to improvise with him. Amazing guitar/drums interplay. The stereo image of the guitar sometimes jumps from left to right, reinforcing the ’70s character of the tune.

Then T’Mershi Duween follows, in an arrangement similar to the one to be presented live a few months later with a different intro, never used in previous (’74) and later versions (’88 and ’91). On October 1, 1975 in Vancouver (BC, Canada) FZ presented the tune as an idea of a “close short friend” (i.e. Moon Zappa) of him who said T’Mershi Duween was The Queen of the Desert, “and I believed her!”.

Very close to the spirit of The Queen is Reeny Ra, the other unreleased piece, that after the exposition of the main theme morphs for a little while into Solitude, a love song that left few marks during the 1980 rehearsals.

Here is a 76k .mp3 sample of this song from the 1980 rehearsals, courtesy of Jon Naurin, via IINK.

After that the main theme, followed by a guitar solo with quotes from T’Mershi Duween, then again the theme for the closing. The whole thing is truly amazing.

In the following spoken track someone asks “What’s this song called”, Zappa answers “it’s two songs, T’Mershi Duween and Reeny Ra“, in this phase of their development they were probably supposed to form a sequence. Another studio audio environment track comes next, musicians seems to discuss about a broken instrument, in a relaxed mood.

Then the band again with Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me? from the Walley mono rehearsal tapes, in the classic 1975 arrangement. Vocals are buried in the foreground and slide guitar is pushed really forward, it’s like sneaking the tune from Danny Walley’s shoulders! Not the best moment in Camouflage maybe, but entertaining.

Back to stereo for The Illinois Enema Bandit. Zappa is building the 1975 arrangement, slower in this version which unfortunately stops before the guitar solo section. A great vocal performance of Napoleon though, this take emphasizes the vocal potential of the song.

A short break into the mono Walley tapes, for Sleep Dirt – In Rehearsal, just a fragment but moving as usual, thank you Joe for letting this 1:08 in too.

Stereo is back for Black Napkins, the way we know it, with Novi for the first solo. Second solo is for Frank, a quite extended and tense one, a great chance to listen to a studio guitar improvisation from the ’70s, quite a rare episode.

Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance for the next number, the classic 1975 reggae arrangement, Napoleon front man.

Two further Walley cassette cuts follow, the first a brief chat between Walley and Camarena, the second includes a short fragment from Swallow My Pride, an unreleased song from the 1975 September/December tour.

Any Downers? comes after, in stereo, it is the 1975 arrangement but unfortunately without the usual long guitar solo, just a few bars to close the number. The Zappa catalog missed this version for too long.

Phyonix (Take 2) follows, no stereo tricks here (sounds better to me), and a little step ahead for the arrangement towards the end (3:44), where a truly appropriate chord change occurs, opening the mood for the closing. Great guitar/drums interplay again (note that Zappa asks to “put some of the guitar in Terry’s monitor” at the beginning). Hats off everybody!

Another studio environment document for the finale, funny dialogues about someone complaining for the noise, typical garage rehearsals folklore!

This album is going to be played a lot and calls for a live companion from the 1975 September/December tour. It would be nice early in that leg, a performance including this version of T’Mershi Duween, Swallow My Pride and the extended Any Downers?. Hopefully a next Road Tapes release.

Zappa 1975 no touring band: Denny Walley, Frank Zappa, Terry Bozzio, Novi Novog, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Robert "Frog" Camarena, Roy Estrada

Zappa 1975 no touring band: Denny Walley, Frank Zappa, Terry Bozzio, Novi Novog, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Robert “Frog” Camarena, Roy Estrada

Zappa 1975 no touring band: Robert "Frog" Camarena, Roy Estrada, Frank Zappa, Novi Novog, Terry Bozzio, Denny Walley, Napoleon Murphy Brock

Zappa 1975 no touring band: Robert “Frog” Camarena, Roy Estrada, Frank Zappa, Novi Novog, Terry Bozzio, Denny Walley, Napoleon Murphy Brock

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Inventionis Mater, Does Humor Belong in Classical Music?, 2013

Inventionis Mater, Does Humor Belong in Classical Music?, 2013

In these dull audio ages of extremely compressed sounds, take a deep breath and go for Inventionis Mater to enjoy a sound made of acoustic instruments, air and silence. It is a duo: Pierpaolo Romani on clarinet and bass clarinet, and Andrea Pennati on classical guitar. Andrea and Pierpaolo are at ease with low and high dynamics when playing, and masterful in creating arrangements for two single voices, using silence as part of their transcriptions.

If “peaceful” is the first adjective that comes into mind listening to Does Humor Belong in Classical Music?, maybe “tight”, “tense” or “bursting” are adjectives commonly associated with the music of Frank Zappa. In spite of this, these transcriptions work fine because the drama and the irony of the originals are still there.

The album starts properly with Lumpy Gravy (Duodenum actually). Peaceful and tight at the same time, it goes into a lyrical Oh No, with an ironic finale, a nice variation.

Just to digress a moment, Inventionis Mater is a great and appropriate name for this project, but “Denum Duo” would have served as a nice moniker too!

The album continues with Brown Shoes Don’t Make it, maybe the greatest challenge of the set, the duo transcription is of course dryer than the original but the lyricism inherent to the piece is very well rendered.

Let’s Make the Water Turn Black has a great start, then continues nicely, but maybe too much low profile, a good rendition, but the arrangement lacks that little something more that all the other transcriptions have.

Then the second challenging transcriptions: Peaches en Regalia. The original arrangement is so full of different colors that it is hard to imagine, but also to describe, a duo rendition, but try it for yourself and you will get a bizarre feeling, but in the right direction. As if you get the substance of it, the dna is there! Particularly effective are some changes of the leading role between the two voices, a brilliant expedient to create a varied duo arrangement.

Mom and Dad and Absolutely Free and are the nearest to Zappa as far as mood, the duo effectively captures the dramatic intension of the originals. The second being probably the most interesting outcome of this project. Particularly brilliant here are some changes in the stereo position of the instruments, corresponding to significant mood shifts in the piece.

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Silence, the third instrument of this duo, is called for his best performance in Mother People!

Sofa #2 is the perfect closer for this brief set, a total of 32 minutes. The divan cosmogony inherent drama is perfectly rendered. “Thanks for coming to the show, Hope you liked it, Goodnight!” is what materialize in the zap-o-phile mind at the end of the album. Or, what if the listener would have been be free of about 30 years of sofas, lumpy gravies and brown shoes? Any one in touch with Oliver Sacks?

The album, released in 2013, is available for streaming through the Inventionis Mater soundcloud site, where two outtakes are also ready to be listened: Son of Suzy Creamcheese and Catholic Girls. As far as what can be heard from a compressed source, the audio production seems at a lower standard if compared to the others, and the files have been added later. Also, a lot of live footage is available through YouTube, including King Kong, Rhymin’ Man and Zomby Woof. First steps towards a next album? Meanwhile, go for the tragic story of the large gorilla, miniaturized!

As a member of the audience, for the following project I would respectfully suggest to take into consideration The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue, in the Helsinki ’73 arrangement (Road Tapes #2). More, since the audience imagination often goes beyond the fringe of anyone comprehension, I would also think about all the opening suite of Road Tapes #2 (from EDMBBQ, to RDNZL)!
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Enjoy Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? via spotify too, then purchase it contacting the Duo through the Inventionis Mater web site, or via cd baby.
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Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? back cover

Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? back cover

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Inventionis Mater flyer for a Lisbon concert, December 21, 2013

Inventionis Mater flyer for a Lisbon concert, December 21, 2013

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