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Frank Zappa's Jazz Legacy Refuses to Die

Ludovico Granvassu By

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Frank Zappa may have said "jazz is not dead, it just smells funny" but looking at his life and music one does not get the impression that he really believed that jazz was decomposing or dying a slow death.

On Freak Out, one of the most impressive debut albums of all times, he included a list of 179 people that had influenced him, including jazz luminaries like Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy and Rahsaan Roland Kirk (with whom Zappa would end up playing two years later in a famous impromptu collaboration at the 1968 Boston Globe Jazz Festival). Over the years he hired countless musicians with stellar jazz credentials and collaborated with heavy-weights like Archie Shepp, Michael Brecker or Al Di Meola, among others. Most importantly, his work incorporated jazz elements and largely prefigured jazz-rock. So, perhaps, that funny remark about jazz was a lovingly snarky joke by an artist whose sarcasm was as marked as his musical talent, rather than a literal criticism.

This week we revel in the beauty of the jazzier side of Zappa's vast repertoire checking out not only some of his recordings but also how the jazz world has embraced his genius.

Happy listening!

Playlist

  • Ben Allison "Mondo Jazz Theme (feat. Ted Nash & Pyeng Threadgill)" 0:00
  • Frank Zappa "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" from The Lost Episodes (Rykodisc) 0:17
  • Host talks 4:13
  • Colin Towns & The NDR Bigband "Willie the Pimp" from Frank Zappa's Hot Licks (And Funny Smells) (Rent a Dog) 7:00
  • The Ed Palermo Big Band "Sleep Dirt" from Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance (Cuneiform) 9:22
  • Mike Mainieri "King Kong" from An American Diary (NYC) 14:52
  • Host talks 20:30
  • Stefano Bollani "Eat That Question" from Sheik Yer Zappa (Decca) 22:11
  • Frank Zappa "Black Napkins" from You Can't Do That (Stage Anymore, Vol. 6 (Zappa) 25:54
  • Daniele Sepe & Rote Jazz Fraktion "Peaches en regalia" from Suonarne 1 x educarne 100 (Il Manifesto) 31:07
  • Host talks 34:58
  • Woody Herman "America Drinks and Goes Home" from Thundering Herd (Fantasy) 37:47
  • Le Bocal "Little Umbrellas" from Oh No!...Just Another Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue (Chant du Monde) 41:09
  • Riccardo Fassi Tankio Band "G Spot Tornado" from Riccardo Fassi Tankio Band Plays Zappa (The Return of the Fat Chicken) (AlfaMusic) 48:49
  • Host talks 56:47
  • David Kikoski "Oh No" from Surf's Up (Criss Cross) 58:44
  • Zach Brock "Twenty Small Cigars" from Purple Sound (Criss Cross) 1:06:07
  • Javon Jackson "Zoot allures" from A Look Within (Blue Note) 1:12:54
  • Host talks 1:21:06
  • Jean-Luc Ponty "How Would You Like to Have a Head Like That" from King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa (Blue Note) 1:23:37
  • Zappatistas "Harry You're A Beast / Oh No / Theme From Lumpy Gravy (Medley)" from The Music Of Frank Zappa Absolutely Live (Jazzprint) 1:31:23
  • Host talks 1:38:24
  • Flat Earth Society "Random Riffs" from Terms of Embarassment (Igloo) 1:40:51
  • Anais Drago & The Jellyfish "Zappa Changes" from Anais Drago & The Jellyfish (Another Music) 1:44:58s
  • Host talks 1:49:55
  • Asphalt Orchestra "Zomby Woof" from Asphalt Orchestra (Cantaloupe) 1:52:42
Photo credit: Victor Watts

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