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With the dubious benefit of hindsight, it could be argued that Frank Zappa's music couldand on the basis of this release can still bedefined by what it's not. Zappa was both astute and knowing enough to realize that both progressive and jazz rock could easily become stylistic straitjackets. His music was reflective of this knowledge as much as it was infused with a sense of humor so sophisticated as to be entirely at odds with his often low-brow verbal satire.
It could also be argued that Ed Palermo appreciates all this. His take on Zappa's music is such that it transcends the notion of repertory, and such is the enthusiasm and commitment with which the band puts the music across that it's obvious they know it well too; the way they hurtle through "Echidna's 'Arf (Of You) sets out of the stall in no uncertain terms. Seeing this band live would be a rocking night out because they're obviously polished to the point where the music shines like the brightest diamond, despite never disguising the band's depth of character.
Palermo's band relishes what it does too, and not simply to the extent that this is its third CD of Zappa compositions. The trombone swooping in the opening passage of "Regyptian Strut" testifies to this as much as the band's easy greasing proves what an overrated commodity polish can be. Trombonist Joe Fiedler makes the most of it, shouting in a manner not suited to a lot of twentieth century music, which only goes to emphasize Zappa's uniqueness.
That character's there again on "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?," where the fearsome trickiness is the band's meat and drink; truncated bop lines are set against broken time in a fashion that only Zappa, perhaps one of the most garrulous musical intellects ever to have walked this earth, could have fashioned. Ted Kooshian's organ solo negotiates the tricky business in a way that few could get the better of, while Palermo, on alto sax, has a tone all of his ownleavened, perhaps, by a measure of Phil Woods' joy of life.
"What's New In Baltimore" (not written as a question) exemplifies the depth of identity that Zappa's music has to such a degree that the somehow pertinent comparison with Charles Ives, in terms of both men being true American originals, can be made. As a collective this band knows that and the results speak for themselves.
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: second trumpet; Steve Jankowski: third trumpet; John Palermo: mandolin (2, 3, 6), guitar (8); Veronica Martell: vocals (8); Rob Paparozzi: bass harmonica (7).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.