Friday, March 14, 2008

The things you learn

Wow! I had no idea that Ted Gioia (whose book on so-called "west coast jazz" is an important corrective to the conventional view) is a Frank Zappa fan.

(For those of you who have never read Zappa's autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book, Gioia's piece reveals that Zappa was where I got the title of this here blog.)

Random thoughts in response to these reviews:

-- Hmm... FZ getting the call for Bitches' Brew? I know this is a harmless example of literary liberty-taking, but I must say, it's hard for me to imagine these two gargantuan personalities working together on a project. (Though Zappa did work with Boulez, so there is precedent.)

-- Just curious: has anyone ever actually heard "Peaches en Regalia" (or, for that matter, "Blessed Relief") called at a jam session?

-- Gioia namechecks the "great Shuggie Otis" -- as well he should. Shuggie (who put out a great album on the Luaka Bop label, and who also penned the Brothers Johnson classic, "Strawberry Letter 23") is the son of Johnny Otis, an early Zappa influence (and, if I remember correctly, the inspiration for the (now trademarked) Zappa 'stache).

-- Okay, I'll admit it, and I'm sorry in advance -- I've never been a huge fan of Ian Underwood's sax playing. [Ducking.]

-- But ah! "Dog Breath" is one of my favorites (in fact, I've always considered Uncle Meat to be one of those elusive perfect albums). And Gioia really puts it out there when he says that "[a]lmost a decade later, Steve Reich would reveal -- in his spectacular Music for 18 Musicians -- the modernistic side of mallet instruments. But Zappa had discovered the hypnotic power of the marimba and vibraphone back in his Uncle Meat days." Wow -- though Zappa certainly has his supporters among maintream critics (now), it's rare (as far as I can tell, anyway) that you see him credited for something concrete like this. I wonder if he would've gotten a Pulitzer if he had survived. (Nah, probably not.)

-- "During the course of ["Be-Bop Tango"], Zappa offers us intense energy jazz (with a flaming trombone solo by Bruce Fowler)" ... yes. And do you think I will ever get tired of reminding people that Bruce Fowler sat in with the IJG for a gig back in 2004? Fuck no! So sue me, it was real thrill. (And what a sweet, lovely guy Bruce is. For a while there he was one of the only people who would come to our LA gigs regularly.)

-- I have that Ed Palermo album, it's pretty damned good. Though the estate gave him shit. Wouldn'tcha know?

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