Alto saxophonist/bandleader Ed Palermo returns with his third CD devoted to the music of Frank Zappa. Palermo has now become the jazz face of Zappa, having prepared close to 200 transcripts that leaven the music with jazz harmony, while leaving the inherent flavor and quirkiness intact. The charts lend themselves to lush orchestration as much as they leave room for individual musicians to make distinctive statements. Add Palermo's humor to the dynamic, and it's yet another delicious dollop of enjoyable music. The booklet notes provide a lot of fun-filled facts and at least one line of fiction.
Palermo constantly shifts the line-up of his big band to achieve various interpretations and approaches. But whoever is on the stand, one thing is certain: the players are one with vision, verve and vitality.
Asymmetrical horn convolutions greet "Echidna's Arf (Of You)," the lines crisscrossing before alto saxophonist Cliff Lyons leaps up and fires a bristle of taut escarpments. The rhythm changes into a sprightly spring as the horns engage in quick conversation. Palermo orchestrates lush lines to flesh out the tune and burnish the texture.
"Dupree's Paradise" is in constant shift of time and motion. The arrangements are complex, but they drive home the vantage point that a tune can be turned on a note and continue to be effective. A charging blare of horns immersed in the melody, and the counterpoint of baritone sax and the intervention of piano, are connected by the facile flow of ensemble play.
Palermo steps out of the Zappa frame with "America the Beautiful," which he includes as a tribute to his father, a World War II veteran. Sung with warmth and sincerity by Bruce McDaniel, with the voice of Veronica Martell swirling midst the instrumentation, the song makes for an engaging finish to the record.
Track Listing: Night School; Echidna's Arf (Of You); Regyptian Strut; Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?; Dupree's Paradise; What's New in Baltimore; Let's Move to Cleveland; America the Beautiful.
Personnel: Ed Palermo: leader, arranger, alto sax; Paul Adamy: electric bass; Ray Marchica: drums; Bob Quaranta: acoustic piano; Ted Kooshian: Kurzweil; Bruce McDaniel: guitar, vocals; Cliff Lyons: lead alto sax, clarinet; Phil Chester: second alto sax, flute, piccolo, soprano sax; Bill Straub: lead tenor sax, clarinet; Ben Kono: second tenor sax, flute, oboe; Barbara Cifelli: baritone sax, Eb mutant clarinet, bass clarinet; Charles Gordon: lead trombone; Joe Fiedler: second trombone; Matt Ingman: bass trombone; Ronnie Buttacavoli: lead trumpet; John Hines: 2nd trumpet; Steve Jankowski: 3rd trumpet; John Palermo: mandolin (2, 3, 6), guitar (8); Veronica Martell: vocals (8); Rob Paparozzi: bass harmonica (7).