Dweezil Zappa Embraces His Father's Eclectic Legacy
By KENNETH PARTRIDGE, Special to the Courant
Published on courant.com - October 31, 2006
In his roughly 30-year career, Frank Zappa recorded more than 60 albums, establishing himself as a musical maverick, cult hero and free-speech crusader.
Equally important for maintaining his legacy, he also produced a son, Dweezil, who has the rare musical ability needed to keep the family business alive.
Almost 13 years after his father's death, Dweezil is on the road with a new band, Zappa Plays Zappa, which performed Sunday night at the Chevrolet Theater in Wallingford.
The group turned in a tight-yet-freaky three-hour set, lovingly revisiting the goofball complexity of Frank's catalog.
"It's a great time to be alive - that's the theme of the show tonight," said Dweezil at the onset, and indeed, his dad's music is anything but gloomy.
That might be the only thing it definitively isn't, though. During the set, the band - a mix of young talent and Zappa vets - dabbled in, among other things, reggae, rock, progressive metal, space-age gospel, avant-garde jazz and cartoon theme songs.
"Who Are the Brain Police?" seemed to encompass all of the above. Just when it would start to make sense, someone would play a kazoo solo and the whole thing would change tempo, Frank's compositional twists constantly defying easy categorization.
While Dweezil proved an exceptional lead guitarist, he surrendered much of the stage to singer, saxophonist, flutist, dancer and doer of weird voices Napoleon Murphy Brock, a longtime member of Frank's band.
Brock personified the dichotomy of Zappa's music, making Donald Duck noises one second, blowing note-perfect sax the next. On "The Idiot Bastard Son," a collision of Broadway and heavy metal, Brock sang with a warm, soulful voice, bringing a traditional feel to a decidedly nontraditional song.
Even if the band went on for far too long - only serious fanatics, such as the ones who arrived with a jack-o'-lantern carved to look like Frank, need 180 minutes of Zappa - the third hour brought plenty of highlights.
It was worth sticking around to see Dweezil engage in a hopeless soloing battle with six-string wizard Steve Vai, for instance, and to marvel as drummer Terry Bozzio, adrift on a percussion odyssey, used every inch of what had to have been a 90-piece kit.
For as meandering and solo-packed as the songs could be, they never felt like rehashes. Frank's compositions may require virtuosity to play, but it's their freewheeling spirit that makes them worth coming back to.