Frankophiles unite
by Bob Margolis
June 17, 2010 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The late guitarist/composer Frank Zappa wrote a lot of music - much of it complex, with odd time signatures that frequently shift mid-song, intricate chords and melody lines that twist and turn more often than a mountain road. Yet the Zappa who lives on in the minds of most people is the funny guy with the knee-slapping titles: "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" and "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango."

Dweezil Zappa, the guitar-playing son of Frank, wants the world to know that his Pop was a lot more than a novelty act. That's why, five years ago, he put together Zappa Plays Zappa, his eight-member touring band devoted to the Elder's multi-layered music.

"People think of Frank's music as novelty music," says the 40-year-old Zappa, who will play the Bearsville Theater on Thursday, June 24. "They say, 'That's the guy behind 'Dancin' Fool' and 'Yellow Snow.' He's the guy with the kids with the crazy names and the songs with the crazy names.' They think he's like Weird Al Yankovic." Zappa started the band as a way to get Frank's music out to a whole new audience.

"I noticed that anyone under 40 really had no idea about my father and his music," says Zappa. "They heard of the name, but were unfamiliar with the things I think he should be known for...I didn't want his music to fade away in my lifetime. So this is sort of like a public service that we're providing: a community outreach program."

Dweezil knew just how challenging his father's music was from his earliest days picking a guitar. The second of Frank's children, Dweezil makes sure that his band plays Frank's music as accurately as possible.

"It's not like we're doing a cover song and saying, 'Let's put a new part in here.' We're not trying to improve the music. We're trying to give people a chance to hear the music the way Frank wanted it to be heard. Some people might say we're going too much by the book, but there's no reason not to do it by the book. If you're changing things because you can't play it, then that's a cop-out."

Before starting the band, Dweezil took a full two years to embark on a shedding mission, dealing with the technical aspects of tunes like "Inca Roads," "Black Page" and others currently in the Zappa Plays Zappa book. He also learned how to improvise within context. "I'm not interested if someone is only about getting through the lead and then just playing a bunch of unconnected notes."

The Bearsville gig follows a weeklong Dweezil Boot Camp (June 20-25) out at the Full Moon Resort, known as Dweezilla! Make no mistake: This is not a Zappa fantasy camp where you wank on forever over Frank's material. This is deep meta-level instruction geared toward providing tangible aid to those seeking to play gigs and be more literate musicians. "I can't wait," explains Dweezil. "I'd love to do this in other cities, and other countries as well. The idea is really a musical workshop, not one focused on Zappa."

How often do you get to engage in a multi-day affair with not just great teachers, but also those who are actively on the road, touring with a high-octane ensemble? Members of ZPZ will teach workshops dealing with music theory, the element of "time," various ways to invite your own unique Muse - and more. Visit for more information.

For information about the Full Moon Resort, visit Note: Bearsville tickets are going fast. Very fast. Call (845) 679-4406 for info.

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