This trio from Italy, InventionisMater, have taken the essential elements of Zappa’s music and distilled it down to acoustic duet and trio pieces. And they thought it couldn’t happen here….
14 tracks / 60:53
Okay, fans of Frank Zappa – try to imagine this: an acoustic duet version of “Echidna’s Arf of You,” the wild musical ride following “Village of The Sun,” on the Roxy and Elsewhere album. Well, that’s exactly the kind of musical challenge that InventionisMater take on and manage to conquer quite effectively on their brilliant album, Zapping. Tackling the complexities of Zappa’s music in intimate settings, Pierpaolo Romani (clarinet / bass clarinet), Andrea Pennati (classical and electric guitar), and Nazareno Caputo (vibraphone / percussion) strip things down to the dominant melodies, harmony, and rhythm to create an hour of music that includes pieces written by Frank himself, some originals by InventionisMater, and musical moments by the likes of Stravinski and Varèse, two composers that inspired the late musical icon.
Many of the titles will be familiar to Zappa’s legion of fans, as will some of the various themes interspersed throughout pieces on the album. The stark interplay of guitar and clarinet on “G-Spot Tornado” is startling in its purity and faithfulness to the original composition, as is the aforementioned “Echidna’s Arf.” When the trio perform their own Zappa-inspired originals, they display a keen sense of humor combined with virtuosic playing – a combination of traits that Frank was known for. In “The Modern Day Composers Refuse to Die,” the band includes delightful combinations of Zappa, Stravinsky, Varése and any number of pop culture tidbits from Tin Pan Alley standards (“Tea For Two”) to TV and movie themes (“Bonanza,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “The Godfather,” among others).
“How I Meat My Uncle,” is a three-movement piece that incorporates, as you might have guessed, themes from “Uncle Meat (combined with original ideas from composer Michele Sarti) and other, more esoteric, influences. It’s not until the penultimate track, “Son of Mr. Green Genes,” that we get to hear more of an electric rock edge, with Pennati plugging in and producing a well fuzz-toned, Zappa-inspired guitar solo to close the song following nimble solo work by Caputo’s vibes and Paolo’s clarinet.
Zapping is a fine addition to the ever-growing emergence of bands specializing in the music of Frank Zappa. It’s unique in its mostly-acoustic format and sparse instrumentation and well-rounded in its salutes to Zappa’s own musical heroes. The playing is superb and the album is well-recorded, without distracting production effects. The packaging itself is done in a style that honors Frank’s sensibilities (thank you, Antero Valério), and features phrases and imagery that will make any Zappa fan smile. A generous full-color booklet is also included and is in Italian and English.
Zapping breaks down to about 50% Zappa, several Zappa-influenced originals, and a smattering of related composers. Excellent performances and classy packaging make this one a keeper. Well worth a wowie-zowie.
- Bert Saraco
- 4 Tocks