Around Zappa

Posted: May 23, 2015 in fz related album review, zappa
Around Zappa, Quintorigo / Roberto Gatto, Incipit records (distributed by Egea Music), May 2015

Around Zappa, Quintorigo / Roberto Gatto, Incipit records (distributed by Egea Music), May 2015

Around Zappa is an Italian project started in 2014 from the collaboration between Quintorigo and Roberto Gatto. Though not exactly electric, an electrified ensemble with a taste for the eclectic, and a jazz drummer with a long and successful career, mainly in the acoustic jazz realm, but also linked with pop and progressive.

The band was founded in the late nineties and published more than ten albums that spans from originals to tributes to the likes of Charlie Mingus and Jimi Hendrix. Their peculiar instrumentation (violin, cello, double bass, saxophones, vocals) and the way they electrify them with large use of effects, are the main elements for their distinctive sound.

Through their web side, Quintorigo tells that Zappa has always been a secret idea of theirs and when Roberto Gatto proposed such an affair, it was the right push for the project.

A really experienced and powerful jazz drummer, an electrified ensemble, they all were longing for entering the Zappa universe, as they told the Rome audience during their short May residency at Big Mama (20-23), they met in the right moment, both ready to go.

Around Zappa is touring Italy as:
Valentino Bianchi: saxophones
Andrea Costa: violin
Stefano Ricci: double bass
Gionata Costa: cello
Roberto Gatto: drums
Moris Pradella: vocals

The set list for their May 21 date in Rome was:
1. Uncle Meat
2. Peaches en Regalia
3. Cosmik Debris
4. Montana
5. Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up
6. King Kong
7. Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow
8. Uncle Remus
9. Big Swifty
10. Igor’s Boogie
11. Black Napkins
12. Village of the Sun
13. Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
14. Zomby Woof

Stefano Ricci: 1, 10
Quintorigo & Roberto Gatto: 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14
Roberto Gatto: 4, 13
Valentino Bianchi: 6, 8

That is the same program of the audio cd of the album by the same name, released this May by Incipit records (distributed by Egea Music) as a double set, also including a dvd recorded live at the Blue Note in Milan on December 12, 2014 with the following program:

1. Cosmik Debris
2. Montana
3. Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up
4. King Kong
5. Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow
6. Uncle Remus
7. Big Swifty
8. Igor’s Boogie
9. Black Napkins
10. Village of the Sun
11. Echidna’s Arf (Of You)

Montana and King Kong are also available on video via YouTube.


The peculiar sound of the band emerges after a few bars into Montana: electrified violin and cello, together with the voice of the soprano sax for the main theme, supported by the solid drumming of Roberto Gatto, and by the melodic pulse of the double bass. But there is one more element that hits immediately: the vocals of Moris Pradella. His voice is warm and black, he can manage bass frequencies and knows how to call for tension, à la Ricky Lancelotti. However, especially on a first listen, one may get hooked by the strangest of the accents, which it is not an Italian one, but also not the English inflection you would expect. To fully enter into Around Zappa, one should jump this sort of linguistic oddity and enjoy the sound of the ensemble, the arrangements, the “electrified cello as a guitar” solos, the voice of the saxophones, the “cantable” nature of the violin and double bass parts, the swinging drums, but also the vocals palette: from the warmer parts of Uncle Remus and Lucille, to the frenzy of Yellow Snow and Zomby Woof, Moris gives a considerable contribution to the overall sound of the ensemble.

The King Kong rendition that follows in the video is one of the two arrangements by Valentino Bianchi, he adds here some melodic material that highlights the jazz elements of the composition, pushing the gigantic ape towards the 1970 Jean-Luc Ponty idea of the piece, featuring here a very well balanced drum solo by Roberto Gatto.

Uncle Remus is the other arrangement by Valentino Bianchi and includes a nice full band orchestration of the beginning of the original first Zappa short solo that perfectly fits the middle section of the song.

The above video belongs to the “Quintorigo Roberto Gatto” YouTube channel which also includes some of the tracks of the audio album, including Uncle Remus.

However you should go for the full album and for the project as a whole. Be sure not to miss Yellow Snow for instance, the orchestration gives an immediate flavor of the Around Zappa substance, and the brief electrified cello solo is a heavy swinger!

Their live act as performed in Rome on May 21 is really close to the studio recording presented as an audio cd in the album. As a matter of fact Around Zappa is a live project, however it would be interesting if it could have a further studio development. Take the present version of Peaches en Regalia for instance, the layered nature of the piece is effectively delivered especially in the first part thanks to the arrangement that properly takes advantage from every single voice of the instruments. However the final part (from about 2:40 on) reveals some room for further voices, that could be also orchestrated as studio overdubs. That was also a typical Zappa practice, just to give an example (that shortly will give a chance for a bizzare hook), consider Flakes as released on Sheik Yerbouti compared with the version included in Hammersmith Odeon, overdubs here are crucial for the transition to the finale.

The “She’s frosting a cake with a paper knife” lyrics section is overdubbed and it is Sheik Yerbouti specific. And since we are here, please watch this 1977 Pilsbury Frosting Supreme “Paper Knife” Commercial.


But I digress!

Back to the further development matter, I can’t help going to Road Tapes, Venue #2 once again: I believe that the first sequence, from The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue to RDNZL, may very well fit this project as far as orchestration is concerned. Moreover it would be amazing to enjoy Quintorigo/Gatto play a Zappa suite, all songs segue.

I would like to close this post with the words of Quintorigo and Roberto Gatto, from the facebook page of the project:

Sentito, onesto, filologico, personale ringraziamento a Frank Zappa, accurato nella veste teatrale e scenografica, commosso e viscerale nella performance.

A faithful, honest, philological, personal thanksgiving to Frank Zappa, accurate as a theatrical and dramatic set, emotional and visceral as a performance.

But for the very last closing go for Zomby Woof, the appropriate final number for the cd audio set!


Quintorigo and Roberto Gatto

Quintorigo and Roberto Gatto


  1. Very fitting review. I was present at the May 21st venue, and I would like to emphasise that, though Roberto Gatto is a jazz drummer with a long curriculum in jazz music, he does not try to deform Zappa’s music to adapt it to the jazz language, and succeeds in respecting the spirit of the original compositions. In my opinion this respect has not always been achieved in the numerous tributes to Zappa’s work by jazz musician, and must be considered a big “plus” of this project.

    • rhoerer says:

      Good point sqaassiqqatsi! I agree and hope the hear more from them.

      • CaetanoPeloso says:

        Ai uos present es uell…
        ai engioied it veri maccccc!!
        Mai best compliments for de reviù, especialli de part on inglisc/italian accent

      • rhoerer says:

        I know u lil’ mask, thanks for joining! For those of you who don’t speak English “veri maccccc” means “\ve-rē\ \ˈməch\”!

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