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Ed Palermo: Plays the Music of Frank Zappa

Robert Middleton By

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Yes! Why not? Of course! Frank Zappa's music in a big band setting. Wonderful. From the witty, irreverent packaging to the masterful playing, note-true arrangements and the spot-on selection of Frank's tunes, this is an album to celebrate. What album from Zappa came out the same year as Bitches Brew (by Miles) and also broke new ground? Hot Rats. Bitches Brew was Jazz meets Rock and Hot Rats was Rock meets Jazz. On that mostly instrumental album, which he never attempted to re-create, he proved that jazz could be far out and swing hard. Now almost 30 years (!) later, Ed Palermo, a Zappa fan since he was a kid, lovingly recreates some of Franks best material with a very accomplished big band featuring special guests such as Mike Stern (guitar), Dave Samuels (vibes) and Bob Mintzer (tenor sax).

What makes an album good? It's the players. What makes an album great? It's the material. A point entirely missed by Joe Henderson's big band album from earlier this year that resorted to tired old jazz standards. Nothing there to perk up my ears. True musicians like Steve Turre, Pierre Dorge, David Murray and Ed Palermo understand that fresh material (after all, who else has recorded a jazz album of Zappa's material? Didn't Jean Luc Ponty an eon ago?) is what makes for excitement and energy. Now that IS Jazz! My only regret is that he didn't attempt, Willie the Pimp or the Gumbo Variations. I guess we can all wait for Volume II. Enthusiastically recommended!

Track Listing: Peaches en Regalia; Toads of the Short Forest; Who Are the Brain Police?/Holiday in Berlin (excerpt); Twenty Small Cigars; King Kong; Aybe Sea; Waka/Jawaka; Sofa #1; The Little House I Use to Live In; We Are Not Alone; wai'fn?

Personnel: Ed Palermo, leader, alto sax, guitar; Cliff Lyons, flute, clarinet, alto sax; Phil Chester, piccolo, flute, soprano, alto sax; Chuck Fisher, flute, clarinet, tenor sax; Jeff Lederer, flute, tenor sax; Al Hunt, piccolo, flute, oboe, soprano, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Liesl Whitaker, Jami Dauber, Ronny Buttacavoli, trumpet; Jeff Holmes, piccolo trumpet, lead trumpet (6, 7, 9); Dan Levine, Dale Kirkland, trombone; Jack Schatz, bass trombone; Bob Quaranta, piano; Ted Kooshian, harpsichord, organ, synthesizer; Paul Adamy, electric bass; Ray Marchica, drums.

Title: Plays the Music of Frank Zappa | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Astor Place

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