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Zappa Redux, at the Warner

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • November 10, 2007

The late, great, Frank Zappa
The death of Frank Zappa in 1993 (at the absurdly young age of 52) left a hole that few other musicians would even try to fill. Composer, satirist, relentless rattler of cages, Zappa waged all-out musical war on the banality of modern life, releasing some 60 albums that ranged from rock to doo-wop to complex instrumentals influenced by Bartok and Stravinsky. And when he died, so did one of the most inventive, subversive and uninhibited musical imaginations on the planet.

Or at least, until now. Zappa’s son Dweezil, 38, an actor and accomplished guitarist in his own right, has been reviving his father’s music with a new production called “Zappa Plays Zappa”, which he brought to the Warner Theater on Wednesday night. It’s clearly a labor of love; for close to three hours, the younger Zappa led his seven-piece band on a fast-paced tour of the Zappa legacy, including classics like “Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy,” “Pygmy Twylyte,” and “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It.”

It’s all music of ferocious complexity, lurching between styles, shifting meters on a dime and spitting out whatever was hurtling through the composer’s mind at the moment.  But Dweezil has clearly done his homework; the entire band (which included Ray White, a guitarist and singer who toured with Zappa) brought the music off with painstaking professionalism and often note-for-note accuracy. Maybe it didn’t have the wild edginess of Zappa’s own performances, but that’s to be expected; the biting lyrics of thirty years ago sound a little dated today, and Dweezil, for all his gifts, didn’t really inherit his father’s live-wire persona.

But as a tribute, this was probably as good as it gets. Dweezil displayed some spectacular guitar chops, but kept the focus on his father – even wearing a Frank Zappa t-shirt throughout the performance.  And one of the high points came early on, when Dweezil launched into the signature song “Cosmik Debris.” A video of his father materialized above the stage, and for the next ten minutes the two traded solos and seemed to beam at each other across time; a moving, if slightly eerie, father and son moment.

Posted on Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 06:14PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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