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The Band from Utopia - A Tribute to the Music of Frank Zappa
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The Band from Utopia - A Tribute to the Music of Frank Zappa

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 Frank Zappa, musical avantgardist and enfant terrible, was never really regarded as a jazz musician. He even made such cynical remarks about jazz as “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny”. His music can perhaps be classed as rock or even new music, but does it belong at a jazz festival?
 And yet, in the years since his death, it has become increasingly clear that Zappa is part of the complete history of twentieth-century music, if only as a permanent challenge to musicians in most musical areas, be it jazz, rock or new and avantgarde music.

 As a teenager he was inspired by the composer Edgar Varèse and as time passed, his own compositions were performed by respected interpreters like Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble Modern and introduced to an appreciative public. In his youth, however, he was also a fan of Rhythm & Blues, the original link between jazz and rock’n’roll and predating jazz-rock, that fusion of jazz and rock, by decades.

 Right from his jazz-rock start in the late sixties on the 1969 album “Hot Rats” he was an impressive improviser. Zappa had learnt his guitar skills from the great names of R & B and at the same time kept working with jazz and jazz-rock greats like Jean-Luc Ponty and George Duke, and the trombonist Bruce Fowler, who can be heard in this live concert recording.

 Although much of his creative work has little to do with jazz, its anti-commercial manner sets it apart from popular rock. Pop music as electric art for the people; rock as “classical” opera; jazz without jazz stereotypes; blues stereotypes and strange bar sequences; nonsense and insight - the universe of Frank Vincent Zappa jr., composer, rock star, satirist, guitar virtuoso, lyricist, literary author and campaigner for civil rights and individualism, is full of contradictions that will inspire coming generations of musicians to keep exploring his creative legacy. When Zappa died in December 1993 at the age of 52, he left behind a wealth of works in need of performances and musicians able to perform them (Zappa pieces are not easily “covered”).

 The 1994 Jazz Open Festival in Stuttgart approached former Zappa sidemen and asked them to stage a tribute concert. They agreed and formed “The Band from Utopia” (whose name refers to the album “The Man From Utopia”). The entire band was excited about the idea of bringing Zappa's music to the stage again. Many hours of intense rehearsals were held in both Los Angeles and Stuttgart. This was the first time all of these musicians collectively had taken the same stage at the same time. Many of them began their work with zappa in the '70's and toured with the '88 band, which was Zappa's final live band. The grouping worked very well, staying together for some time and releasing four albums. All but drummer Jay Dittamo had been in a Zappa band at some time and featured on his albums. Each of them had joined Zappa at a different point in time and they brought varying contributions, often based on years of experience, to the project.

 Bruce Fowler had joined Zappa’s band in 1973 (“Over-Nite-Sensation”), Chad Wackermann and Ed Mann in 1978 (“Wag’s Flags”), Tommy Mars, Arthur Barrow and Ike Willis in 1979 (“Sheik Yerbouti”, “Joe’s Garage”), Bobby Martin in 1981 and Kurt McGettrick 1988 (on the last tour). They represented a hand-picked company of musicians, because perfectionist Zappa applied the strictest criteria in selecting his bandsmen. “I like to find players that have unique abilities that haven’t been challenged on other types of music. I mean, a good example would be a guy like Bruce Fowler, who has an incredible range on the trombone. When he plays the trombone, you hardly recognize it as a trombone because his technique is so bizarre,” Zappa told Nigel Leigh in a BBC interview. “And Tommy Mars, this is a guy that you could hold a conversation [with] and Tommy could harmonise it while you were talking. You would just follow dialogue with chords. How often do you get a chance to apply these unusual skills on other types of music?" Zappa always found it interesting “to encounter a musician who had a unique ability, find a way to showcase that and build that unusual skill into the composition. So that for ever afterward, that composition would be stamped with the personality of the person who was there when the composition was created.”
Scheda Film
Titolo Originale The Band from Utopia - A Tribute to the Music of Frank Zappa  
Anno 1994
Genere Musica Leggera
Durata 60' circa
Location Jazz Open, Stuttgart
Musiche di Frank Zappa
Musicisti Ike Willis, Tommy Mars, Robert Martin, Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler, Arthur Barrow, Kurt McGettrick, Ed Mann, Chad Wackerman, Jay Dittamo

Produzione Tdk Mediactive
Distribuzione Cecchi Gori
Codice Area Zona 2 - Europa
EAN 8241210014216
Supporto 9 - Singolo lato, doppio strato
Audio Originale: Dolby Digital 5.1, Stereo, DTS 5.1
Formato video 1.33:1
Confezione N/A

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