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New book: Zappa And Jazz - Did It Really Smell Funny, Frank? by Geoff Wills  
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Idiot
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Post 2015-05-28 13:28   [Quote] 


Although Frank Zappa died over 20 years ago, he continues to be regarded as an iconic figure in 20th century culture. In 1973 he famously said ‘Jazz is not dead… it just smells funny,’ and in this new book Geoff Wills takes a look at Zappa’s widely assumed antipathy for the jazz genre. Along the way, he throws up some very interesting facts.

Frank Zappa’s music has a unique and easily recognisable quality, and it brilliantly synthesizes a wide range of cultural influences. Zappa and Jazz focuses on the influence of jazz on Zappa in an attempt to clarify the often-confusing nature of his relationship with it.

Zappa’s early years are examined, from his first foray into a recording studio to the formation and progress of his band The Mothers of Invention. There are exhaustive critiques here of the key jazz-related albums Hot Rats, King Kong, The Grand Wazoo and Waka/Jawaka. Along the way, Wills analyses Zappa’s music and the wider influences that were crucial in forming his attitudes, not only to jazz but to society in general.

The book concludes with a discussion of Zappa’s similarity to more orthodox jazz leaders, his legacy and the influence on jazz-related music.

Guaranteed to appeal to all Zappa fans who seek new insights into his music, to open-minded jazz listeners and to anyone with an interest in the melting pot of 20th century music.

Publication date: 28 September 2015

http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=3374

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rubbershirt
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Post 2015-05-28 14:44   [Quote] 
Sort of like he didn't like the Beatles...
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cookie_manager
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Post 2015-05-28 15:19   [Quote] 
I'm a big free jazz fan (and free jazz musician), and so my view is quite one-sided in terms of "good" jazz.

But let's have a look at the early 70s output of people like Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, Peter Brötzmann, Brotherhood of Breath, Gunter Hampel, Joachim Kühn, Steve Lacy, Albert Mangelsdorff, Misha Mengelberg, Mike Osborne, Michel Portal, Alex Schlippenbach, Manfred Schoof, Thomas Stanko, John Surman, György Szabados, Cecil Taylor, Yosuke Yamashita (and this is only a bunch of musicians whose music from 1970 to '73 I can easily connect to). I even exclude all the british avantgarde guys like Bailey, Parker, Oxley, Stevens etc. (all at least having evolved from jazz and keeping loose connections to it).
I actually find Zappa's line quite funny, but looking at it a bit closer, it's either completely absurd, arrogant, or a sign of being uninformed to say "Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny" in 1973. In those days that genre was full of new tendencies, made new fruitful connections to other musical places, was wildly alive!

In the light of that assertion, this
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The book concludes with a discussion of Zappa’s similarity to more orthodox jazz leaders
seems to make lots of sense. The music that those people mentioned above made (and partly still make) is mostly based on the creative sparks of a certain collective band chemistry. Not sure Zappa ever had that in his bands (full of "employees" - didn't he call his musicians like that later?).
In comparison, indeed an orthodox, and may I add: quite conservative band-leader.

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brainpang
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Post 2015-05-29 04:10   [Quote] 
Could be good. Amazon lists it at 129 pages and so will have to see if it is a concise critique or if it is just a padded magazine article, fluff. And how much Mr. Wills actually knows about jazz.

cookie: Frank's famous one-liner is a likely commentary on rock music replacing jazz as popular music, nothing to do with undercurrents, vital stuff that was happening at the time. And remember, the jury is still out whether that "free" stuff is jazz at all! One can dance to it, I guess, but it is really embarrassing to watch.
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Dark Clothes
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Post 2015-05-29 08:00   [Quote] 
It's pretty obvious from the situation when Ben Watson played him a drum/guitar duet with Derek Bailey and a drummer (can't remember the name) that Bailey's free improvisation was rather uninteresting to Zappa. We all know that he was opinionated, and that may have cut him off from some interesting discoveries as he grew older.
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brainpang
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Post 2015-05-29 10:09   [Quote] 
Dark Clothes wrote:
It's pretty obvious from the situation when Ben Watson played him a drum/guitar duet with Derek Bailey and a drummer (can't remember the name) that Bailey's free improvisation was rather uninteresting to Zappa. We all know that he was opinionated, and that may have cut him off from some interesting discoveries as he grew older.


I didn't read it that way at all. He said something like: "It reminds me of myself working out the music for lumpy gravy."
Bailey, I believe, saw it as a back-handed compliment. That Frank compared it to himself yet also viewed it as an unfinished work, a sketch.

I am under the impression that the music stirred great emotion in Frank, and that is why he asked for it to end.
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Dark Clothes
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Post 2015-05-29 10:42   [Quote] 
I'm going from memory and remember FZ saying that he could have made similar music to that duet with the guitar in one hand and drumstick in the other, which I didn't take as a compliment. But I appreciate your reading, brainpang - thanks.
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cookie_manager
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Post 2015-05-29 11:58   [Quote] 
Urgh, we're sidetracking this thread which is about a book I'm sure is worth reading. Keep talking about it folks! Smile

Dark Clothes wrote:
I'm going from memory and remember FZ saying that he could have made similar music to that duet with the guitar in one hand and drumstick in the other, which I didn't take as a compliment.
I remember this statement. It shines an interesting light on how he apparently perceives free improvisation. While it's pretty much about communication, interaction, collective creativity - a process with everyone at eye level - , Zappa only refers to the sounding end result.

And I'd be really thrilled to see a guitar player executing Bailey's playing techniques with one hand. Laughing

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Idiot
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Post 2015-05-29 12:46   [Quote] 
For what it's worth, I have read an early draft of this book and found it all very illuminating.

Dr Geoff is a professional musician and clinical psychologist who wrote a highly respected paper investigating the evidence of mental health issues in a group of eminent jazz musicians (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/183/3/255).

And our dear friend Ben Watson had this to say about his contribution to Zappa And The And:

"The biggest clot of actual discovery comes in Geoffrey Wills’ Zappa and the Story-Song, which investigates the comedy voices Zappa heard on the radio as he grew up. Unlike Michel Delville’s citations from Charles Bernstein about the “false authenticity” of the voice, Wills’ delvings into Lord Buckley, Lenny Bruce, Victor Borge, Tom Lehrer, Shelley Berman, Ernie Kovacs, Ken Nordine, Phil Harris, Frank Crumit, Jimmy Durante, Verne Smith, Mart Robbins, Danny Kaye and Stan Freburg reveal the actual roots of Zappa’s hipster delivery, and in so doing demonstrate that Zappa’s art is an astonishing collage of pop-cultural motifs. You can stare into his fizzog all you like, fans, but it’s when you stumble over one of his motifs in its original place that the real uncanniness starts. You realise that we live in a universe constructed by … ourselves."

Geoff certainly knows his onions, and this book is by no means "fluff".

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brainpang
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Post 2015-05-29 16:56   [Quote] 
Thanks, Andrew. I recall having read the jazz/mental illness essay before.
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BengoFury
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Post 2015-05-29 17:13   [Quote] 
I'll buy the fuckin' book Wink
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