Is That A Real Frank Zappa or Is That A Sears Frank Zappa

So I sleep next to my iPad.

I’m not proud. I have this pillow that stands it up and it’s there next to me, usually helps to assist in the transition from busy brain to weird dreams, and sometimes I awake in the middle of the night and check it just for the time. Then it’s there in the morning for that first social media check.

This morning’s drowsy perusal of social media was saying some stuff about a Frank Zappa hologram.

Seriously? I rubbed my eyes seeing some posts about this Frank Zappa hologram tour. It’s gotta be a hoax. No way would anyone think this was a good idea.

By the time I was pouring coffee down my gullet, Rolling Stone had confirmed the story.

Color me aghast.

Rolling Stone quotes Ahmet Zappa:

“I’m thrilled that Frank Zappa will finally be going back out on tour playing his most well-known music as well as some rare and unheard material. We can’t wait to bring his creative work back to the stage with the musicians he loved to play with … who are committed to being part of this epic endeavor. When I spoke with them, they were excited at the prospect of performing alongside Frank once again and can’t wait to give fans an unforgettable experience.”

The specter of the dead-artist’s hologram being shuffled around “on tour” ton continue cashing out on their image and works is a horrifying development in entertainment. That Frank Zappa might be the artist to sufficiently pioneer this, thanks to his shitty children?

This is unspeakable.

Dweezil’s Twitter response:

#NoFakeFrank

If for no other reason then that he would hate the living shit out of this.

Sunday Session

Pssst. C’mere. I’m going to tell you a secret.

The best two hours of radio anywhere is on Sunday nights. And it broadcasts from Rochester, N.Y., on 88.5 FM, WRUR, from 6 – 8 p.m. Sunday.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sunday Session, hosted by the fabulous Ruth Elaine.

There is little available online biographically of this DJ powerhouse, whose delivery is reminiscent of Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman and takes a listener some time to adjust. For a time she was name-checked in our house as “that crazy jazz lady.” A Google search brings up a D&C feature done on her on October 20, 2009, but the rest of the article ain’t available. Disappointed. But the search did unearth this from her, regarding her cool style:

“It really is my voice,” Ruth Elaine assures me, clearly accustomed to the question. There’s no hint of exasperation in her answer; she knows that her distinctive sound-a slow, snaking alto dripping with cool-cat enthusiasm-is instantly recognizable to anyone who has heard her hosting “Sunday Session with Ruth Elaine,” her weekly jazz radio show on WRUR-88.5 FM.

But if I am near a radio or other contraption that will deliver a broadcast at that time, I will be listening. Because Ruth Elaine succinctly delivers in those two hours some of the best jazz you will ever hear. As a taste-maker, as a person whose ear you trust absolutely, as a friend of yours to go hey, listen to this, she is the finest. I am a resolute Ruth Elaine fan and by gosh, her show is on the radio right now. Here. You can go listen right here.

Which brings me briefly to yet another item for the Zappadan.

Zappa is often quoted as saying “jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.” As noted in the hour-28 radio documentary I’m about to share with you, Zappa’s relationship with the form was, well, odd. But, the truth is, among the things one could accuse him of was that he was essentially a jazz band leader.

Take the time, kids, I’m telling you. This is one meaty documentary. It’s British, of course.

Jazz from Hell – His Bizarre Relationship with Jazz

And if you’re not gonna listen to that, at least give Ms. Ruth Elaine a shot. You will gain a lovely education.

Everything Is Healing Nicely

The best Frank Zappa story of all time was offered up by his wife Gail, on the little booklet that comes with the CD release Everything Is Healing Nicely, companion piece to his final pre-humous work, The Yellow Shark. The story encapsulates what the overall meaning this final work held, especially if you’ve ever read a word about Zappa’s previous disastrous attempts to have orchestras play his music. She wrote:

Part of Frank’s overall plan was to compose on the Synclavier for the Ensemble Modern so the first order of business was to see how well this plan would work. On the night before the first day of rehearsals, he asked me reorchestrate his Synclavier composition entitled “Igor” and arrange it for the Ensemble Modern, preparing printed parts and a conductor’s score. Frank replace the title with “This Is A Test” right before printing out the parts for the next morning, just so that the musicians would know the purpose of this short piece. As so often happens, the title stuck.

This recording is a first take performance by musicians who were sight-reading music just handed to them. It illustrates not only the technical skill of this orchestra but the fact that they managed to be expressive and impart a style into what they played, even while struggling to accurately render something they had never seen before.

It’s interesting to note that one of these tests was “G-Spot Tornado.” After about an hour of rehearsing, Frank deemed it a failed experiment and put it aside. The members of the ensemble however were determined to master it and continued to practice it on their own. By the time that the Yellow Shark concerts took place, “G-Spot Tornado” served as the finale and the encore.

I love that story; that story sometimes brings me to tears. Frank Zappa had spent maybe millions of dollars and countless fruitless months and years trying to hear an orchestra make sense of those funny little dots on paper, and now, finally, nearly moments before he was to discorporate permanently, the band of musicians plucky enough, dedicated enough, and good enough to play Frank Zappa’s music came together and played it. That is the meaning of this project, and it is the story Gail tells you with her decision to let us all hear how Yellow Shark came to pass.

Gail Zappa got a lot of flak from fans for allegedly being over-litigious, for clamping down hard on the music, and for maybe not treating the original band so well, but I can tell you, friends, once I got my hot little hands on EIHN, I was a Gail fan for life. In it, she gave us one of the best information sources available for those interested in grokking the life and music of the man. I adore her for letting me have it, and I always will.

Gail Zappa today stopped refusing to die. She was 70. We will probably be talking about her a great deal during Zappadan.

#ZappaYore

I am trying to find a fairly non-intrusive way to keep the @zappadan Twitter somewhat active year-round. This of course is to help gather followers and to keep the account relevant.

How about a bit of Frank history? I’m calling the hashtag #ZappaYore and gleaning historic Zappa points from various sources. The first one dropped today:

December 23, 1984: Frank @Zappa plays the Universal Amphitheater in Universal City, Calif. Chronology

Guest guitarist was @DweezilZappa.

Tracks from the Universal City show are included on You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 and Vol. 3

Setlist is here #ZappaYore

I Come From Nowhere

One of my favorite Zappa productions is “I Come From Nowhere” from Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. I mean, this song. The absurdity. The voice. The raucous send-up of arena rock.

In Zappa’s time, this was strictly a studio production; he never performed it live.

His son, however, thought it should be taken to an audience. Not only do you get that with this clip, but you get a really great story to boot. Here we go, kids. “I Come From Nowhere” by Zappa Plays Zappa.

Did I mention that I am really looking forward to Dweezil’s new album?