Friday, December 22, 2006

zappa plays zappa

WARNING: Music geek post. Some of you may want to start doing your income taxes or cleaning the cat box instead.

DISCLAIMER: I have a really hard time maintaining this as an art-only blog. I visit other artists' blogs and am impressed by their commitment to the brush. I like to think I'm committed, too (always a double entendre when discussing artists), but sometimes I just can't help myself, so...

On Wednesday night my husband and I went to what might be the best concert that either of us has ever attended -- and we both have very eclectic taste. The minute you hear about a musician riding his dead-legend-dad's coattails the red flags go up, so you'll probably never see me at a concert done by a Lennon or a Marley, but when I heard that Dweezil Zappa had collected a bevy of some of the most respected musicians in the biz, I was in. I tried to keep the tickets a secret from Greg and surprise him (he is one of Frank Zappa's most devoted followers and never saw him play live before his death in 1993), and actually managed it for two months, but last week he saw a billboard for
Zappa Plays Zappa downtown. Damn.

Amongst the musical 'guests' were legendary guitarist
Steve Vai, drummer Terry Bozzio and vocalist/saxophonist/flautist Napoleon Murphy Brock. Dweezil himself, an easygoing performer with his own music career, has made it his current mission to faithfully reproduce Franks's music, and the pundits say it's almost like he's channelling his father through his guitar.

If you've read this far and either aren't familiar with Zappa's music, or only know it by mainstream reputation, this is from Wikipedia:

In his 33-year career as a professional musician, Frank Zappa established himself as one of the most prolific and distinctive musician-composer-band leaders of his era. Zappa worked in almost every musical genre and has written music for rock bands, jazz ensembles, synthesisers and symphony orchestra, as well as
radiophonic works constructed from pre-recorded, synthesised or sampled sources. He wrote and recorded hundreds of musical works, spread over almost sixty albums released during his lifetime (plus several posthumous releases).

Zappa evolved a unique compositional approach — which he dubbed "conceptual continuity" — that ranged across virtually every genre of music. His work combines satirical lyrics and pop melodies with virtuoso instrumental prowess, where long, jazz-inflected improvisational passages are counterbalanced with densely edited and seemingly chaotic collage sequences that mix music, sound effects and snatches of conversation. Conceptual continuity clues are to be found throughout Zappa's entire oeuvre.

As for the mainstream reputation I mentioned, the following is from Dweezil's blog:

Let's face it, popular music becomes popular through massive exposure and repetition. Frank's music has never been exposed in that manner except by accident with certain songs like Valley Girl, Don't Eat The Yellow, and Dancin' Fool just to name a few. Those songs are great but in my opinion they barely scratch the surface of Frank's music. I think many people mistakenly got the wrong impression of him by casual exposure to those songs. They seem to have perceived him as a "Weird Al" type of character with a penchant for silliness when it came to naming his songs and his children. He was often characterized that way in the press as well. That became the extent of "common" knowledge about Frank and subsequently obscured the rest of his music. I think it's really important for people to get a sense of the big picture when it comes to Frank's music. There is so much depth and variety in all of his albums it's hard to believe it's possible for one person to have created all of it. He had no boundaries in his music which obviously gave him so much freedom. One of my favorite quotes of Frank's is, "the mind is like a parachute, it doesn't work unless it's open."

There are plenty of music video clips of both Frank Zappa and the Zappa Plays Zappa tour on YouTube, but this little news item caught my attention. I wonder what the final bid was.

(Update: I was curious about what happened at the auction and found this story.)

As for me, I'm just another old boot pretending to be 16 again in my concert t-shirt with my dog Zappa. (And yes -- we finally decorated the tree last night!)

andrea and zappa x2


Blogger Within Without said...

Tried to leave a comment earlier, Andrea, but couldn't...

What a fantastic pic of you and Zappa!

I was never a fan of his, but I'm certainly a fan of yours, in many ways.

And you've got the Christmas tree decorated.

Many hugs and kisses for your lovely family, Andrea, and of course most particularly for you.

22/12/06 2:53 p.m.  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

Hello Andrea. I think WW is flirting with you.

I live that photo as well. And I feel now that I should have been paying more attention to Zappa's music in high school when all of my smoker's corner mates were big into it. I was too busy trying to find a place to fit it that I never embraced anything completely.

Happy holidays to you and your family. I hope the storms are over.

I got prairie store today. It's nice having a secret admirer. :)
O.K., now I'm flirting, too.

22/12/06 3:05 p.m.  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

That's LOVE that photo.

22/12/06 3:06 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

WW: Zappa is definitely an acquired taste, like fine wine, dark chocolate and minimalist art. (Are you flirting with me? :)

Brian: I first learend about Zappa from 'the guys in the smoke hole,' too. I always loved the fact that Zappa was most popular amongst two extremely diverse groups: the dregs and the music geeks. Not sure where I fit but I certainly had a sometimes misspent youth to complement my geeky side. (How can I remain secret if you insist on flirting? :)

Gotta love the boys in Manitoba.

22/12/06 3:48 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to write about art every day. I know I cannot. To many other things going on in my life that are also creative.

My husband and boys are the music geeks.
Somehow it all passed me by but I admire people who love music no matter what kind. Music is so expressive.

22/12/06 4:25 p.m.  
Anonymous swampgrrl said...


i did get to see frank zappa about a dozen times before he died, and it was always an amazing experience. i somehow missed dweezil 'zappa plays zappa' crew when they came to the east coast in the fall. glad you got to see it.

about this being an art blog, i always conceptualized (because he was into conceptual continuity) frank as sculpting the air with his guitar notes.

22/12/06 5:23 p.m.  
Blogger kj said...

andrea, where have i been? i've missed several of your posts until now. it is a pleasure to be here.

i want to wish you a very happy holiday and new year and tell you how much i appreciate your blog friendship. your comments always brighten my day.


22/12/06 7:48 p.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

I always flirt with you.

It's FF, Andrea...FRIENDLY Flirting. But you are a doll, doncha know, and you DO look bootiful with Zappa...

Brian and me and HE, we Manitoba boys know what's goin' on, hear? Even if we do think Aussie Rules is a sissy game.

You and Zappa-lovin' hubby and the boys have a beautiful Christmas.

22/12/06 7:54 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Toni: I guess that makes you NOT a geek. :)

Swampgrrl: But I am more jeaolous of you! And it's good to have a little female company. Before the concert I was one of three women in the womens' washroom whereas the line was out the door at the gents. What does THAT tell you?

KJ: I always enjoy your visits. You must drop in more often.

WW: Oh damn, you got me all hoping for a second there. Oh well. :)

22/12/06 9:33 p.m.  
Blogger tlc illustration said...

I agree with Toni - it's hard to not discuss other creative (or not) aspects of your life. It all infuses the art anyway...

The picture of you and doggy-friend is delightful. Congrats on your tree. Have a great holiday weekend!

22/12/06 11:05 p.m.  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

Great post! Frank will always be a legend! An old shoe? You look like a teenager!

23/12/06 11:11 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

How brilliant to be carrying on in the family firm! Especially since he clearly does it with real style.

You and Zappa look gorgeous of course.

23/12/06 11:52 a.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

Angelic Andrea, you'll always get a little wink from'll just always be from afar.

23/12/06 12:46 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have a great Christmas Andrea. What a great picture of you and Zappa. Very cool that you went to see Dweezil.

24/12/06 9:47 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed sharing this post with my boyfriend who is a huge Zappa fan. He read and enjoyed it on my laptop while he was waiting for me to finish getting ready to go out to dinner. After dinner we went to the nice used bookstore next door to the restaurant and the two booksellers were talking about Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart and so Michael joined in and the three of them had a hearty (music nerd) conversation about which were the best/worst albums, and why. While I was there I unfortunately found a wonderful book of Chagall's lithographs for $195 that I had to have. I put it on hold but was able to find a copy online for half that price which I ordered--an expensive evening!

25/12/06 10:32 a.m.  
Blogger frank h said...

all Franks are great!

(have a wonderful Holidays, Andrea)

26/12/06 8:24 a.m.  
Anonymous AscenderRisesAbove said...

that was such a fun post. I had to go dig out my zappa ALBUM and dust it off! At least I didn't say 'eight track!' Wonderful to see the photo and put a face to your blog!

26/12/06 8:02 p.m.  

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