STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
Zappa Plays Zappa, the band formed by Dweezil Zappa to honor his late father Frank’s music, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The band returns to Keswick Theatre in Glenside to perform a concert that celebrates the 40th anniversary of the landmark “One Size Fits All” album (DiscReet, 1975), which will be performed in its entirety.
“One Size Fits All” is the final album performed by Frank Zappa with the Mothers of Invention, which included George Duke, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ruth Underwood, James “Bird Legs” Youmans, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Captain Beefheart (credited as Bloodshot Rollin’ Red). The album, considered one of Zappa’s finest, includes several fan favorites including the album’s opening track “Inca Roads,” which is also one of Zappa’s most complex compositions.
In a telephone interview from his recording studio in Los Angeles, Dweezil discussed the challenge of performing “One Size Fits All.”
“By far the most challenging song to perform is ‘Inca Roads.’ That is a song we’ve played many times in the past, but it’s still hard no matter how many times you’ve played it. It’s one of the best examples of my dad’s personal style of music because in this one song this really defines, for lack of a better term, the compositional devices that he likes to use. He uses 2 disciplines in this where you have the strict job of playing the composed music that has all these tricky little rhythms and then you also have the challenge of the improv sections, where anything can happen.
“So that, in a nutshell, is kind of what Frank’s music is overall. He has the strict discipline of the challenging compositional elements and then the surprise factor of what can happen in an improvisational situation. So that balance between the two is really what his music is. That’s the thing that I love about playing the music in general — that juxtaposition.”
Dweezil explained how he manages to recreate his dad’s music as well as come up with guitar solos that are appropriate.
“Your challenge is to play the stuff as written and then when the improv stuff happens that’s a really free moment. That being said, I will take elements of some of Frank’s guitar solos and I will take phrases that are very specific to his style and what he played in certain sections of solos on certain songs and I’ll use those phrases as guideposts for the rest of my own improvisation. So, I play in a way that is certainly very much inspired by my dad’s style of playing, but I also get to do my own thing within that. And that’s kind of the other balancing act — to play in context to the music in a way that Frank would play, but also do my own thing at the same time. Because when you have an improv situation on a song where Frank typically played extended guitar solos, I don’t like for the music to take such a drastic left turn so that now it doesn’t sound like what Frank would do anymore. So that is that other layer of the challenge for me.”
Another challenge is simply determining which songs the band will perform, considering Zappa’s extensive musical catalogue.
“Because we’ve been doing this on an annual basis we try to always learn new stuff each time that we go out on tour, but you also have to make sure that there are a certain number of songs that are either predicted or expected by the people (who) are coming to the shows. Usually we have a rotating list of about 15 or 20 songs that are what we consider to be the fan favorites. And then we choose some other stuff that are deeper tracks that people may or may not be that familiar with, and we kind of put the whole show together based around those elements.”
Dweezil said that in addition to the “One Size Fits All” album this show will include another hour plus of music, including the “expected” songs and a few new things that the band has not performed together on previous tours.
In addition to the Zappa Plays Zappa tour, Dweezil is also preparing for the release of a new solo album of his original music, to be released this May. It will be his first solo album in 10 years and it was recorded with his Zappa Plays Zappa bandmates.
“(The album) doesn’t sound anything like any other record I’ve ever made. I’m excited for people to hear the direction of the music. I definitely got to utilize new skills that I’ve cultivated over the past 10 years of playing my dad’s music.”
Though Dweezil was unclear about whether he will tour in support of his album, he definitely intends to continue Zappa Plays Zappa. He will also continue his “Dweezilla” Music Boot Camps. He offers a mini Dweezilla Guitar Master Class during the afternoons of the Zappa Plays Zappa concerts as well.
IF YOU GO
What: Zappa Plays Zappa
When: Saturday April 11, at 8 p.m.
Where: Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside.
Tickets: $39.50 – $89.50
Info: Call (215) 572-7650 or check www.keswicktheatre.com
Artist’s website: www.dweezilzappaworld.com
What: Dweezil Zappa Guitar Master Class
When: Saturday, April 11 at 2:30 p.m.