Zappa Early Renaissance Orchestra (ZERO) — Money? What Money?
(Cordelia Records CD061, 2015, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-05-04
If you ever listened to a Frank Zappa record and thought, “What this needs is more kazoo and ukulele,” then not only are you a very strange person, but you are in luck, because the Z.E.R.O. Ensemble has brought your wish to reality. Z.E.R.O. stands for “Zappa Early Renaissance Orchestra,” but the name shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than anything else about the project. It’s the twisted brainchild of Kevin Crosby, with contributions from a large number of others both in Seattle and around the world, including Tubes drummer Prairie Prince; it’s the result of a joke among former members of the Seattle band The Squirrels, the joke being simply the idea of doing Zappa songs on ukulele. In keeping with The Squirrels’ tradition of mashing together unrelated pieces of music, attentive listeners will notice some non-Zappa quotes, including bits (presumably too small to require composition credit) of Yes, Devo, Jethro Tull, Dave Brubeck, and much more — listening to the album is like watching a Futurama episode and trying to catch all the pop culture references hidden in the backgrounds and dialog. Operatic soprano Juliana Brandon is the most common featured vocalist, and handing her lyrics like those of “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black” or “Idiot Bastard Son” is pretty amusing all by itself, unless you’re a hopelessly stuffy snob, in which case this album is not for you anyway. In addition to the vocal tunes, there are numerous of Zappa’s instrumental tunes covered, as well as a lot of the kind of collages that appeared on some of the early Mothers recordings, with goofy voices, animal noises, and recurring characters. The main thing to note is that, exactly in keeping with Zappa’s work, the silliness is produced with serious musical craft.
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more