Featuring alumni of his various ensembles, this little big band was founded in 1994 to perform a Frank Zappa tribute at Germany’s Stuttgart Jazz Festival. Therefore, this 2002 studio production features the group’s interpretations of five Zappa compositions to complement original works by the respective band members. Even the CD cover art features an abstract, cartoon type illustration that mirrors the artwork found on Zappa’s early Mother of Invention LPs. In a nutshell, these folks revitalize the memory of Zappa’s large ensemble works via unbelievably difficult horn and rhythmic arrangements amid stabs at humor and zaniness. Ex-Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman is a source of amazement here - especially when he utilizes his kit as melodic vehicle throughout the nearly impossible time signatures. Hence, Zappa’s disciplined approach and unforgiving musical complexities often turned mere mortals into superior artisans.
The ensemble melds C&W twang and humor with abrupt shifts in tempo, in concert with some intentionally cheesy vocal escapades. Besides the satirical lyricism heard on “Christian Coalition Blues” and some good old hanky panky, the overall sound is brash yet at times luminous. The group even renders a few lushly executed passages, consisting of mood-evoking choruses and a relaxed sense of swing. A fitting tribute to the late master for sure! The musicians serve up an irrefutably rousing offering that casts a contemporary edge to Zappa’s storied and sometimes misunderstood legacy! (Strongly recommended...)