Archive for December, 2005

Top Ten Favorite Zappa Albums

Friday, December 23rd, 2005
  1. Roxy And Elsewhere
  2. This is probably my favorite of all the Zappa bands. I love anything these guys have done, but I also love the track selection on this recording. They’re some insanely tough songs (Bebop Tango, Echidna’s & Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?) coupled with great, accessible tunes like Village of the Sun, Trouble Every Day and Penguin in Bondage. The audience participation stuff is always fun too.

  3. Zappa In New York
  4. For very similar reasons as above, but this one features some killer horn arrangements and solos by the Brecker bros, et. al. I love the sound of the band from this era. I guess O’Hearn’s fretless helped that quite a bit, and there’s a lot of energy from Terry Bozzio happening here. This one’s a real classic.

  5. Sheik Yerbouti
  6. This is an odd one. I don’t love the hell out of every track on this recording, but there are enough mind blowers here that it’s earned its place on my top 10 list. The guitar solos on this one are still some of my very favorite of Frank’s solos. Sheik Yerbouti Tango, Rat Tomago and Yo’ Mama are just killers! Plus, this is one of those records that I got into early on when I was discovering Zappa. So there’s something very magical about it that will always keep it up there in my heart.

  7. Studio Tan
  8. One that fans of pop have a real hard time accessing, but these pieces are masterpieces! I could listen to this kind of writing all day. And to me, people who can’t get Greggery Peccary just can’t get a lot of why I think life’s worth living. There’s just so much that’s great about that track, I can’t even begin to describe it.

  9. One Size Fits All
  10. More from “The Roxy Band”. This is the introduction to that band, and features great songs, great guitar playing, and great musicianship all around. This is a really fun band to listen to.

  11. Joe’s Garage
  12. I love this 3 record “concept album”, and so do most people who only know a little Zappa. Very memorable songs, indeed. I’m not typically a fan of the more commercial stuff, but these recordings are way more than just the title track, “Catholic Girls” and “Crew Slut”. There are so many great FZ solos here as well as some of FZ’s most intense use of odd time signatures. This is one of those that has something for everyone.

  13. Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar
  14. O my fucking GOD is this 3 record set so unbelievably good! When I first got it, I didn’t really get it fully. But I always knew there was something really special about it. I’d find myself occasionally just putting a copy on and trying to figure it all out in my head. It was like I’d get a weird craving for it. It was a craving that I couldn’t really explain. Then at some point in the last few years I really started to hear and get what goes on in these recordings and it’s just so damned good! It’s like total validation to me (who’s listened to every class of guitar player in existence and, I’d like to say, knows when something’s pretty damned good) that Frank was one of the best electric guitar players ever. That he could make such long, modal vamp solos interesting and memorable and haunting shows that this guy really had something going on upstairs. I believe he said at one time that he thought of his guitar solos as mini-compositions (or words to that effect) and here’s the evidence on 2 CDs. And ask any drummer who knows his ass from his elbow about Vinnie’s playing on these recordings. ‘Nuff said about this one!

  15. Ship Arriving Too Late To Save a Drowning Witch
  16. I’ll bet this doesn’t make a lot of people’s top 10 lists, but it certainly makes mine. I love it from beginning to end. Though I do find “I Come From Nowhere” to be grating at times, I still love it. But SATLTSADW, Envelopes and Teenage Prostitute are all masterpieces.

  17. You Are What You Is
  18. I debated whether to put this one on my list or to go back to some of the earlier recordings like Absolutely Free or We’re Only In It for the Money. This one won out because like Sheik Yerbouti, this is one I had a lot of exposure to early on and it left its mark on my psyche. As I grow older and listen to this I realize the song writing is great on this one. Frank’s use of odd times was so masterful by this stage (and his bands were getting so good) that he’ll serve up some of the sickest rhythmic stuff and you, the listener, won’t even realize what the hell’s going on.

  19. Zoot Allures
  20. Again, another one where the parts individually don’t seem like much, but together they comprise a whole that’s really quite good. I don’t know what it is, but I just like this record. Probably some of the simplest songs Zappa ever wrote, but they all capture a really cool vibe of Zappa in the 70s.

Top Ten Favorite Jazz Artists

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

My subjective list of my top 10 favorite jazzers:

  1. Charlie Parker
  2. For being the genius who invented bebop! For bringing such cool sounds to such an already cool, swinging art form.

  3. John Coltrane
  4. For taking what Bird did to some serious next level shit. For being a maniacally questing individual who never ceases to inspire.

  5. Thelonious Monk
  6. For being the mad professor and for stuff like “Ugly Beauty” and “Just a Gigolo”

  7. Eric Dolphy
  8. For all the cool outside playing and sounds.

  9. Miles Davis
  10. For cool jazz, for Kinda’ Blue and for inspiring leagues of other great players.

  11. Sonny Rollins
  12. For being a colossus among giants.

  13. Joe Pass
  14. For listening to your dad when he said “fill it out” when you were playing him melodies. For keeping it simple.

  15. Bill Evans
  16. For all the cool harmonies on that cool jazz stuff you did with Miles.

  17. Django Reinhardt
  18. For overcoming physical limitations to play the way you did, and for playing such an accessible style of jazz.

  19. Wes Montgomery
  20. For tremendous feel and groove. For doing it all without any formal training (as just about everyone else on the list).

Year end wrap up?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Well, it’s been over 90 days since my last update. In that time I’ve gotten married, gone to Maui for a honeymoon (first time on the islands for both of us), gotten at least two new guitars, bought a digital piano and started taking lessons, and who knows what the hell else.

It’s been a good year. I got back into playing guitar pretty much full time. My playing’s gotten a lot better since starting. My chops are slowly coming back, my theory knowledge is pretty good, my ear’s not bad, I’m practicing in a somewhat more disciplined way, and my timing’s improved immensely.

I got back into the music of Frank Zappa in a big way (after a 6-7 year hiatus from fanatical listening) and have listened to more of his music in the last year than I probably have in the last 10. I’ve gotten a few of his posthumous ZFT-releases, and have re-acquired some of my old favorite titles.

I’ve grown pretty reclusive to the point of being agoraphobic. I’ve witnessed it happening more and more. And though I’ve watched it with a cautious eye, I’ve kinda’ let myself roll with it and have not tried to make life suck by being hung up on fixing stuff all the time.

I have big plans, as usual, for the new year, but nothing unconscionably ambitious. I would like to work on my sight reading as a big priority in my musical life (on guitar, piano and hopefully bass, time permitting). I’m also planning on transcribing a lot of bebop and maybe some gypsy jazz. Maybe I’ll start taking some guitar lessons as well. Aside from that, I hope to settle into the married life in a nice way, make some new distinctions and progress with my career and my current job (which I’m loving — esp. since I have the next 11 days off from work, and only 2 of them are actual vacation days).

See you in ought six.