Archive for the ‘fz related album review’ Category

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



Batterie Deluxe

Posted: January 25, 2015 in fz related album review, zappa
Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015

Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015


In memory of Luciano Mastracci aka Lucky Luciano
(L’Aquila 1948 – Stockholm 2014)


Luciano Mastracci, september 2012

Luciano Mastracci, september 2012


Discover, dig, go deep into it. Such acts of hearing/thinking come to my mind after a few listening sessions of Batterie Deluxe, incredibly enough, the first solo effort by Morgan Ågren, sensational drummer and passionate human. To get the inner substance of this album, one should read it as an “evidence of humanity” too, not only as a masterful piece of rhythmic creation by a fine musician and sound researcher.

The album is available in streaming at as well as well as the liner notes, that are a first clue of how intimate the project is.

The same approach to the recent 2-hour documentary Conundrum: A Percussive Misadventure, a must see.


You may get hooked, if you will, there’s another 3 hour and half: Conundrum: UNDONE (The Deleted Scenes).


Back to the album, track 8 is entitled Lucky Luciano #2 and that is why more then ever this post could be – and sure it is – a strongly biased personal view. I knew Lucky Luciano in fact, as a long distance friend and as another passionate human. He was a folk singer from one of the coldest (little) cities of southern Europe (shattered in 2009 by a terrible earthquake), that found his way trough the northern lights of Scandinavia early in his life. I had a sad but at the same time lively evidence of his humanity during his last months between us, when we had some (Stockholm-Rome) skype conversations: he did not want to talk about his illness (now I know he knew very well), instead he wanted to talk life, music, people, as usual. Master Kurt Vonnegut helps: “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different”. We also talked about his friend Morgan projects, and of the drummer idea of a piece of music entitled after him. He was truly happy of it, a warm happiness, the warmth of life.

Morgan Ågren’s Batterie Deluxe trailer


Lucky Luciano #2 is the center piece of Battery Deluxe (and opens the video trailer above), and after a while I realized that it is life, times, struggle and end of a human being. The piece is strictly divided in two parts, a lively first 1:30 precedes a dark and heavy struggling section, with Morgan at building and destroying the rhythmic environment under a dramatic guitar solo by Jimmy Ågren, jet another Luciano’s friend. At the very end, the crying bass sound deteriorates and eventually stops.

The emotional gravitational field of this piece of music is a lot strong to me, but after a while I started to hear the rest of the album with the same approach. It took a little while tough, I needed to realize – convince myself, I mean – that all the power that Morgan knows how to deliver is brought down all around the album. When you start listening you may ask yourself where is all the force, sometimes apparently brute, that Morgan delivered for the Mats/Morgan Band (especially live) and for projects such as BLIXT (Cuneiform) or Box (Rune Grammofon).

Morgan Ågren chose to bring his instrument somewhat on the background of the music to concentrate to his rhythmic ideas and to every sonic details, somehow his inner self. In the liner notes he asks:

How much time is reasonable to spend filtering a bass drum sound? Fifteen minutes or maybe 10 hours all in total?

Right after the first minute of the album you know what is he talking about, and the more your audio source is a quality one, the more you realize it, beware of mp3s!

The result is in the mood of Shack Tati, the last Mats/Morgan Band effort, but much more intimate, with a lot of references to world music (India, Senegal, eastern Europe) and with a taste for jazz from hell.

Drums grooves are often light albeit complex, sometimes they have a “fake drum machine feel”, a few times the drums shortly go sort of solo (NH1, Alap Clav and F Files), and in one case you get a submerged drum solo near to the finale (deliberately far away in the mix of Elka Deep Phase). Morgan knows his drumming can be overwhelming and it seems he did not want the power of drums to dominate the music.

Grooves and loops are the substance of Batterie Deluxe and the Zappa maniac daydreams and wonders: what if Morgan could xenosynchronize some Frank unreleased solos into some new music created on purpose? ZFT think about it!

The album closes with a snippet from Rubber Sky from Shack Tati, hidden a few moments after the end of the last song. More or less the same used for the following video (mind the Zappa poster!):


This song appeared also as Over the Rubber Sky in Välling & Fotogen, a 1998 orchestral album by Mats Öberg & G.U.B.B.. Mats is his lifetime friend and complement musician, I would say. Morgan uses this melody for the closing in a way that appears as an homage to Mats and to their companionship as Mats & Morgan.

As a final note, it is important to mention that Batterie Deluxe “features great guest spots by MATS ÖBERG, JIMMY ÅGREN, DEVIN TOWNSEND, FREDRIK THORDENDAL, NEYVELI RADHAKRISHNA, TINA AHLIN, MAMADOU SENE and SIMON STEENSLAND” (from the liner notes). The following YouTube video includes a collaboration with Devin Townsend, later to became F Files (mind the Zappa photo!).


Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015 (back cover)

Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015 (back cover)




Perfect Strangers

Posted: August 12, 2014 in fz related album review, zappa
Heiner Goebbels & Frank Zappa, Perfect Strangers, The Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Thomas Søndergård, LAWO classics, 2014

Heiner Goebbels & Frank Zappa, Perfect Strangers, The Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Thomas Søndergård, LAWO classics, 2014

Without particularly focusing on Zappa for a moment, Perfect Strangers is a great album, this is the one thing to say first from a highly biased Zappa blog. The Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Thomas Søndergård plays with energy and self-confidence. The program is well balanced, although Heiner Goebbels music may be sometimes associated with minimalism, it has a progressive attitude. The pieces are classics for both composers. The sound is powerful and almost always clear, also considering that it is reported to be a live recording (at Rockfeller Concert Hall in Oslo, February 11, 2010). The result sounds warmer than some Goebbels ECM recordings, and way more powerful than the 1984 Boulez Zappa album, especially as far as the percussion section is concerned. The LAWO classics album is printed on a Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD medium. Finally, it has a great cover and booklet design and pictures.

Perfect Strangers: such a title probably suggests that Goebbels and Zappa should be both way more known than they are, the first often considered “harder” than he really is, the second too much a rock star than a real composer (if you mount the Yellow Shark or The Perfect Stranger cds in your pc with iTunes, it will give “Indie Rock” as genre, courtesy of Gracenote Media Database). In summary a great production by LAWO classics, whom has issued The Mission, an album by The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, also known for a great Zappa tribute: The Brass from Utopia, on this blog too.

And there are some more Zappa Elective Affinities to report, concerning Heiner Goebbels, as far as Ensembles and conductors. The Ensemble Modern often plays and has recorded his music, and the reference album for Surrogate Cities (full score) is an ECM production with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie conducted by Peter Rundel (see Yellow Shark), featuring David Moss on vocals (see Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions).

Back to the LAWO classics album, Suite for Sampler and Orchestra from Surrogate Cities is a Goebbels 1994 composition that has been executed also in 2012 and 2014 after the Oslo recording. It is highly recommended for Zapp-o-philes fond of the darkest Synclavier works (no room for irony here) and with a taste for bizarre pastorals. The suite recalls composer early works with the prog-rock trio Cassiber (1982-92) with Christoph Anders and Chris Cutler.

And here is the Zappa program:

The Dog Breath Variations / Uncle Meat 5:17 (YS: 5:31)
Dupree’s Paradise 8:19 (TPS: 7:52)
The Perfect Stranger 13:01  (TPS: 12:42)
G-Spot Tornado 3:41 (YS: 3:28)
Revised Music for Low Budget Orchestra 7:01 (GP&OP: 7:37)

The first time durations mentioned are the LAWO classics cd ones (in the case of Low Budget it does not count 1:15 of applause), the others in brackets refer to the reference versions, with the FZ album titles given as acronyms. If you compare those timings you will notice that they are comparable, and so the renditions are. The Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Thomas Søndergård deliver a solid and warm performance, and thanks to the sound quality of the recording, they give a new light to Dupree’s Paradise and The Perfect Stranger.

Also concerning sound, Karl Erik Sylthe wrote a review of the album for He says:

I feel subjectively that there is a difference in the amount of reverb from Goebbels’s Suite and Zappa’s works. According to documentation, both are recorded at Rockefeller in 2010, and it’s probably the same event. Nevertheless, I find that while the reverb works perfectly on Goebbels’s works, there are a couple of Zappa’s works where there is a tad too much reverb, leading to that the precision of the highly demanding works depends entirely clear. This is present on Dog Breath Variations and G-Spot Tornado.

I also feel something didn’t go perfectly right particularly with G-Spot Tornado and maybe also with Dog/Meat. But I do not think it is a matter of reverb, rather I think that the mid-range response is not as good and balanced as the one related to the high and low frequencies. The result is that wind instruments are not as clear as woodwind instruments for instance. However percussion instruments sound great and, as already noticed, the overall sound is powerful and warm.

Compared with the Zappa reference recordings it is interesting to notice how the 21 years old Yellow Shark recording remains a reference having a more balanced mid-range response. On the other hand the 30 years old The Perfect Stranger recording sounds more distant and with much less detail. Finally the 12 years old Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions sounds as good as this one.


The above mentioned cds have been played on two different stereo systems (not exactly high-end, but quite nice ones).

Goldenote Koala CD Player
Blue Note S1 Integrated Amplifier
Monitor Audio Silver-RS8 loudspeakers

Cambridge Audio Azur 550C CD Player
Cambridge Audio Azur 550A Integrated Amplifier
Canton Ergo 602 loudspeakers / Denon AH-D2000 headphones

I could not play the multichannel LAWO classics SACD.


A final note. As for today (August 2014) there is not a specific entry for this album on the LAWO classic web site, however check it out later, booklets are usually available as pdf files.


The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, NORWIND records, 2013

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, NORWIND records, 2013


Great (old) news from Norway. In October 2013 The Norwegian Wind Ensemble released his tribute to Frank Zappa: The Brass From Utopia. In the words of the artistic leader Stian Aareskjold: “In 1993 I, as many others, was blown away by Frank Zappa’s record with Ensemble Modern, The Yellow Shark, from that day I dug into the complex, wonderful and humorous world of Frank Zappa, I wanted to play his music. And I wanted to do it in a new way. Not as a copy of Zappa’s own band. Not as a copy of the Ensemble Modern. I wanted to do it for brass and percussion. It took a while to find the right group of brass players, but The Norwegian Wind Ensemble has got the perfect mix of musicians to express the many styles and moods of Zappa’s intriguing music. They took the Challenge!” (from the liner notes).

The outcome is truly entertaining, the Ensemble is tight and deliver a very accurate performance, mostly of familiar arrangements adapted for this particular setting, with a lot of new details that contribute to create their original voice as Zappa performers. The album includes three new transcriptions also, and this is a really appealing part of their work, for sure for who is looking for a new light upon the Zappa catalogue. Namely Fembot In a Wet T- Shirt, I Promise not to Come in Your Mouth and Blessed Relief. And between those three I would choose re-orchestration of the Zappa in New York song as the most intriguing. The original is great and The Norwegian Wind Ensemble succeeded in rendering the ambiguous tone of such a “sensitive instrumental ballad for late-nite easy listening”, and for creatures from the outer space.

From the Det Norske Blåseensemble (DNBE) profile web page, and with a little help of a pernicious on-line translator, we understand that the Ensemble is a very old institution, being founded in 1774, that today focuses on improvised music and early music, especially baroque.

In the case of the Zappa album, “Det Norske Zappa-ensemble” is a thirteen piece band: ten brass musicians (two of them at bass trombone and tuba), one drummer and two percussionists.

Here are the complete credits from back and inner sleeve (note that it is a ZFT approved project).

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack back cover

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack back cover


The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack inner cover

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, The Brass From Utopia, digipack inner cover


The album starts with Peaches en Regalia, the reference arrangement is that of the Ensemble Modern (from Greggery Peccary and other Persuasions). In this case the piece starts at a slower tempo and there are a lot of differences in the orchestration, such as a written trombone solo (0:58-1:14) instead of a woodwinds/guitar section, just to give an example. A perfect intro to the sound of the Ensemble.

Medley from “Make a Jazz Noise Here” declares his origin in the name. This arrangement sounds quite natural due to the brass nature of the original. The Tuba lines are a truly entertaining substitute of the Scott Thunes parts. And the xylophone instead of the electric guitar intro to Theme from Lumpy Gravy is a choice that gives a slightly different tone to the humor inside. It would be interesting to hear this very same version in a mix where the percussion is more upfront, it seems too much far here.

For the next two pieces the reference arrangement is the Dog/Meat Yellow Shark duo. The lack of woodwinds adds drama in some passages, during the first Dog Breath theme for instance, the band timbre sounds really dark.

Back to Make a Jazz Noise Here for the first part of Big Swifty. The classical quotes are here also: Lohengrin, prelude to act III (Wagner), Carmen (Bizet) and the 1812 Overture (Tchaikovsky). The following Best Band improvised “Jazz Noise” section is replaced by a long trumpet solo where the Ensemble swings like a great Jazz Big Band. Back to the original for the closing section.

Fembot In a Wet T-Shirt, the first new transcription, follows and goes with the Joe’s Garage version until more or less 2:15 in the original, which features a middle section with the short composition #8, and materials from the first movement of Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation. Especially for this middle section the result is brilliant, and the Ensemble is really at ease with the swing nature of the rest of the piece.

Revised Music for Low Budget Orchestra follows the line of the Ensemble Modern arrangement included in Greggery Peccary and other Persuasions, but of course the orchestration is substantially different. The “guitar solo section” is given to the lead trombone and to the trumpet in replacement of the trombone/violin homologous of the Ensemble Modern, and the result is likewise effective.

I Promise not to Come in Your Mouth enters and some sort of heavy listeners will fly to New York, right away in 1976. The guitar solo section is played by the trombone, while the keyboard solo one is played by the trumpet. Thanks to DNBE the world has a new reference for this piece, to be hopefully played a lot more in the future.

Echinda’s Arf (Of You) follows the original, the brass way. Being so near to the Roxy by Proxy tour de force, the above mentioned heavy listener may only hope for a next two drummers brass version.

This Blessed Relief sounds already as a classic, as the other two new transcriptions. One should only ask why they materialized so late in this form. Great trombone solo, great overall swing.

With Dupree’s Paradise we are again back to Make a Jazz Noise Here, with the same approach followed for Big Swifty. Here also the original abstract improvised section is replaced with a Jazz Big Band section. The result is the shortest version ever conceived, but a lot swinging anyway.

G-Spot Tornado for the finale, of course the Ensemble Modern is the reference. A big challenge with a sparkling result. Size of course matters, the impact of the Ensemble Modern full orchestra and throttle is huge, but this accurate rendition is highly entertaining and the long final gong sound is a perfect closer.

“The gong always gets ’em.” Frank Zappa, “Carved In The Rock”, Roxy by Proxy

The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, Echinda’s Arf (Of You), Yellow Snow Festival, Larvik, Norway, February 11, 2012


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.



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)!
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.

Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? back cover

Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? back cover


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

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


Sluggo! Roads

Posted: January 16, 2014 in fz related album review, zappa
Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins Sluggo! SuperDeluxe

Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins Sluggo! SuperDeluxe

In 1994 (Boil That Dust Speck) 1988 was a million years ago and, according to this distortion in spacetime, about 4 million years have been the optimal distance to be produced (probably from an emotional point of view too) before releasing some piece of music by Frank Zappa. The releaser of the matter is dolphins dear friend Mr. Mike Hat Nokertompf Scambot Keneally. “I should be enough tall“, he should have thought, where tallness is a measure of distance too. And the release of the matter is:

Mike Keneally & Beer For Dolphins Sluggo! SuperDeluxe (2CD+2DVD+Download)

This hyperbolic piece of musical evidence includes the long awaited Sluggo! (out of print since 1997) in a new powerfully clear remixed version, with two bonus tracks.

Craney, the first bonus, is dedicated to Mark Craney. Mike Keneally wrote it to support Mark when he was still struggling with his bad health (Mike tells the story on his web site). Sadly Craney passed away in 2005.

I ignore the origin of the title of the second bonus track, but it’s seems that Bob Dylan’s Nose is a hot (sort of) topic on the Internet. Just google it, or try these two blogs: thenewcornpoppy, spinalbap. Mike says: “is a pretty scorching track recorded live in the studio by Bryan Beller, Joe Travers and myself.”

Such a luxury package includes also a DVD with the original mix and over two hours of unreleased stereo live and studio video material which witnesses some of the mystic of the Beer for Dolphins era. Just to give a sneak inside, during the first video live set (Club Tavern – Madison, WI – 8/8/98) the band builds a piece of music working on casual bits of humming produced by selected members of the audience, who are kindly invited to give away a short vocal improvisation. The episode arises into Uglytown, is a lot of fun and at the end of it, the band goes back to the song, but they can’t help themselves to quote bits from the former episode. And the fantastic highest moment of this frenziness is Keneally and Beller spontaneously starting to play in unison one of the previous themes into Uglytown. Mike describes the whole thing in the commentary track, in his words this is what you have back as “payoff” when the band is so comfortable with itself. And it is not all: some hidden treatments are also available on the DVD, I will not spoil them, search the menus carefully!

There is one DVD more, actually a DVD-A with no less than PCM 16/48 Stereo, DTS 24/48 5.1 Digital Surround, MLP 24/96 Lossless Stereo & MLP 24/96 Lossless 5.1 Surround. I for one can’t tell much about it as my PIBKOAPSI state endures.

The fourth physical piece of the Sluggo! SuperDeluxe embodiment is a CD including Mike Keneally & Beer for Dolphins performing live in Boston on August 15, 1998 (Live At Mama Kin). Another gorgeous 1998 live set which closes with a 13 minutes long Inca Roads, here we are. Shut up and listen to a great rendition. Mike take a long (4 minutes) solo, he starts quietly to slowly but boldly go to the final resolution sustained by a great rhythmic section. Mark Ziegenhagen takes the second solo, again over a great rhythmic section, with Keneally. Right after that a bit confused synthetic marimba lick, maybe the only blur of the set which showcases parts of Sluggo! and some BFD classics, like the beloved Dolphins sequence. The band performed also Immigrant Song, almost at the beginning of the set, after an instrumental intro. Needless to say, a pleasure for your ears.

Inca Roads aside, if you are a Mike Keneally fan grab Sluggo! SuperDeluxe, if you are not, you are even luckier, grab it and become a fan!


A final remark. That is for Mike. For sure you already know Road Tapes #2. As soon as I heard Village of the Sun, the Helsinki ’73 rendition, I imagined what now could be your next official move into the Zappa realm. Take the “new” VotS intro and outro and write a new song within!


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

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

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.