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.
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
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