The name Zappa is synonymous with good, intelligent, important. The late Frank Zappa, who you can file under musician and guitar virtuoso, social critic, defender of free speech, and composer of classical, rock, jazz, blues, doo-wop, experimental, etc., left behind a body of work and a catalog of thousands of songs. Some of it pure rock ’n’ roll, some straight-ahead jazz, classical, and rhythm & blues, a lot of it weird, and all of it badass.
He also raised four kids; the older two currently at odds with the younger two over use of the name “Zappa.” Family bickering is a bitch; eldest son Dweezil, the one honoring his father’s legacy in the best possible way, has his two younger siblings and a team of attorneys trying to not let him use his own name when playing his dad’s music. It’s a big, complicated mess of a legal battle going right now, a slap in the face of the one offspring of Frank Zappa doing some musical good in his dad’s (and his own) name. It’s not stopping Dweezil, who will bring his “Fifty Years of Frank” show to the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College in one week. For Zappa fans, this is as good as it gets. Dweezil has been making his own music since he was a teenager, but playing the music of his dad is recognition of the important contribution Frank made to music and pop culture.
“After my dad passed, he was being relegated to this novelty act-type of person, and I didn’t think that was appropriate for his musical accomplishments. I wanted more people to be aware of him as a composer, as a guitarist,” said Zappa. “So I thought it would be a good time to put a band together that could go out there and we could focus on the things that were lesser known, and maybe make those things be more known so that it wouldn’t be this unbalanced version that future generations would be told about.”
If you like Frank Zappa, this is a can’t-miss. The “Fifty years of Frank” performance, which includes honoring the 50th Anniversary of Frank Zappa’s debut album “Freak Out,” is a walk through a rich catalog written by a musical genius, celebrated by his son and said son’s kick-ass band. Both Frank and Dweezil respected catalogs are full of big arrangements, complicated pieces of work, and loaded with beautiful guitar work. Dweezil, certainly his father’s son, plays the music of his father to perfection.
“It’s a good recognition that people appreciate the effort that I’ve gone through and that the band has gone through to play it. The goal was to do it in a way that was commensurate with the rest of the catalog so that if you had never heard it before, you could have a good apples-to-apples comparison,” said Zappa. “It really is something we put a lot of time and effort in for getting all of the timbre of instrumentation and the correct elements of composition to be put on display. We don’t ever change it and turn it into something that it’s not. I don’t change it. I play it as it is. That’s one of the things people have respected, and it’s a good thing.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].