Zappa, Live Bands and Improv

13 Aug

Over at one of my favorite blogs on the net, Dangerous Minds, a video was featured a few days ago of a performance of Frank Zappa’s band at the Roxy back in ’73.

I’ve been planning to do some posts on live bands, seeing as how i have to assemble one and reinterpet the music on the album for the performance showcase in Nov. This video offers a perfect start. It illustrates:

a. How to have one of the most stunning live bands on the planet

b. A lesson in improvisation, which for me is essential in order to be one of my favorite live bands. To be clear, the band for the show will NOT be improvising. This is not that kind of music or thing. I’m just saying, my personal taste in live acts prefers structured improvisation. Structured meaning there are songs, there are carefully composed sections, but there are also long sections of utter improvisation. Like this video.

c. This video is REALLY interesting in that Frank Zappa had an improvisational methodology that was absolutely unique. Not only would the band “jam” but Zappa used a range of conducter like hand gestures to signal the types of on the fly stuff he wanted the band to do. The band cane be laying down a groove while a member is soloing, and then Zappa comes in and starts… with the hand gestures and the type of…. structured improvisation that follows is unlike any other band out there.

So do me a favor, skip to the 10:30 mark and start watching from there. It’s the end of the song as they groove out and into a keyboard solo (by the legendary George Duke). Watch and listen. You’ll see the song getting more and more improvisational, more and more away from the written groove, and then Zappa will start with the hand gestures and you’ll something really amazing go down. It’s worth it even if this music isn’t normally your type of thing.

10:30 mark. Go to it. Watch this and i’ll see you fine, sweet things tomorrow.

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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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