A Zappa interlude and homage

I’ve never been much of a YouTube user. I’ve found some interesting, usually humorous, stuff there but there’s just so much I find it hard to locate very intriguing material.

That said, a HUGE hat tip to the Godoggone blog for the Frank Zappa post that led me to video of a 1973 performance by Zappa and the Mothers in Sweden. It not only has a variation of one of my favorite iterations of the Mothers (the Fowler Brothers, George Duke, Ruth Underwood), Jean-Luc Ponty is also part of the band. The video in Godoggo’s post (some day I need to learn how to put YouTube video on the blog) is of a two-part video of a 15-minute rendition of the “Be-Bop Tango.” The second of the two vinyl discs in the 1974 double LP on which the tune appears, Roxy & Elsewhere, is amongst my favorite Zappa recordings. (It is a semi-permanent album on my MP3 player.) The “Be-Bop Tango” performance on the Roxy LP is also the source of my favor Zappa quote: “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.”

Whether on the LP or the video, “Be-Bop Tango” will sound a bit off the wall to the unsuspecting listener. The title is highly accurate. It takes a tango structure, adds bebop permutations and creates what Zappa calls “a tango event.” It is so replete with quick little notes (one of my technical music terms) it must be amazingly difficult to perform. In fact, Zappa notes on Roxy & Elsewhere, “This is a hard one to play.” Given the complexity of so much of Zappa’s music, him saying that confirms its level of difficulty for the musicians. Thus, to actually see it performed is wonderful. It also increases my regret in passing on the Zappa tickets I was offered for a 1976 Minneapolis appearance.

I’m going to spend more time with the Sweden clips because one of the few downsides to “Be-Bop Tango” is it doesn’t really feature Zappa’s guitar work. While you get a taste of it in the video, the man never received the popular recognition he deserved for his guitar skills. He would probably be included in my list of the top 25 rock guitarists of all time, if not perhaps even in the top 10. In fact, since watching the clips and starting to write this post, Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar, a collection of nothing but Zappa guitar solos, has ended up in the CD player in my vehicle.

So, this is ultimately a long post just to acknowledge a post on another blog. Actually, that’s not accurate. It’s also a way of recognizing Zappa’s contributions, whether as a composer or a guitar player, and perhaps encouraging others to set aside any preconceptions they may have and listen to a musician who, sadly, did not necessarily receive the deserved public recognition for his musical talents.

WARNING! This album contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress. The language and concepts contained herein are guaranteed not to cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business.

Zappa-written disclaimer on some of his LPs issued
after efforts by the Parents Music Resource Council
to have warning labels placed on albums

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