Any fan of Tommy Mars‘ improvisational keyboards and scat filled solos within such classic Zappa compositions as “Pound For A Brown (On The Bus)” or “Little House I Used To Live In” will absolutely love the four tracks (“No Forest Fire”, “Prison Bush”, “Bitches Castle”, and “Here, George”) which make up The Mar Vista Philharmonic CD, No Forest Fire.
Continue reading “The Mar Vista Philharmonic – No Forest Fire”
Written, arranged and produced by Jon Larsen in its entirety, and recorded in Los Angeles in March 2007 with former Frank Zappa band alumni — Tommy Mars, Bruce Fowler, Jimmy Carl Black and Arthur Barrow (also engineered the recording) — Strange News From Mars tells the story of the spacecraft Big Ear III’s voyage to the red planet:
You are now onboard spaceship Big Ear III on the first surrealistic expedition to Mars. We have left the Earth behind, and passed the point of no return.
Three decades ago Big Ear I received an inexplicable signal from space, the mysterious WOW-signal. Whatever it was, our quest on this expedition is no less than to explore this phenomenon and try to answer two other questions that have confused our civilization for millennia.
The crew members are carefully chosen among the finest surrealists of our time, and we aim to please. However, we are in terra incognita, so be prepared for the unexpected.
Larsen is a guitarist, composer and painter. Painting was his first vocation, and from studying Dali and surrealism in the late 70s he eventually started infusing much of that spirit into music, especially when he took up composing in the nineties. What luck then when individual members of Zappa’s old crew, who Larsen so admired, should approach him with a desire to play on his Mars concept (when they heard of the project) when Larsen went over to LA to start the sessions.
Even though the compositions are all Larsen’s, there is no doubt that the spirit of Zappa infuses the entire album (listen to “Mutant Fromage” and “The Eons Are Closing” on Larsen’s Myspace page). This is made most evident by the key roles that these former Zappa alumni have on the record (Strange time changes, unexpected changes, extended vamps, jumpy bursts of marimba, comedic interjections and Zappa-inspired textures). Needless to say, it is Larsen’s core band of Norwegian musicians that so effectively mimic Zappa’s more jazzy excursions, whom along with and from the gathered alumni are able to build upon the Zappa oeuvre.
One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Dachs Reduction” exemplifies this:[audio:Dachs_Reduction.mp3]
Musicians on Strange News From Mars:
Jon Larsen – guitar, martian
Tommy Mars – keyboards, telephone
Bruce Fowler – trombone
Arthur Barrow – general magic & bass
Rob Waring – marimba
Jimmy Carl Black – vocal, percussion
Knut Reiersrud – guitar, harmonica
Ole Morten Vågan – bass
Håkon Mjåset Johansen – drums
Note: This was a difficult album to track down. Even my usual CD ordering service had to order this one in. To save you time, I suggest you order Larsen/Zonic titles from here.
During the same week in April, 1996, while in Los Angeles, California, Juha Rompannen recorded several private interviews with Frank Zappa alumni.
On April 20th, Rompannen conducted his interview with Tommy Mars (first clip). Mars talks about his musical schooling, his time with Frank, synthesizer and keyboard technology and current projects. Mars is a keyboard player who played piano, organ and synthesizers in Frank Zappa’s touring and recording band between 1977 and 1982.
On April 17th, Rompannen conducted his interview with Robert “Bobby” Martin (second clip). Martin talks about his musical development, early music career, his time with Frank and composer jobs. Martin is a vocalist and multi instrumentalist who sang and played keyboards, saxophone and french horn in Frank Zappa’s band during the tours of 1981, 1982, 1984 and 1988.
On April 14th, Rompannen conducted his interview with Bruce Fowler (third clip). Fowler talks about his time with Frank, the movie business, the music scene, and his musical schooling among other things. Fowler is a trombone player that played in Frank Zappa’s touring and recording band during 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and also during Franks last tour in 1988.
All three alumni are members of The Band From Utopia. Partly known under that name, The Mar Vista Philharmonic: No Forest Fire, released this year (2009) also features Tommy Mars and Bruce Fowler (Walt Fowler, Larry Klimas, Kurt McGettrick, Arthur Barrow and Vinnie Colaiuta).
I have No Forest Fire on order, as well as Strange News From Mars (Jon Larsen/Tommy Mars/Bruce Fowler) and The Jimmy Carl Black Story (Jon Larsen/Jimmy Carl Black) from Zonic Entertainment which I’ll review in future posts as they arrive in my mailbox.
Thanks to ‘YourArf’ for posting these interviews.
Featuring: Ike Willis, Tommy Mars and Tom Fowler.
I’ve collected most of the videos (10 parts) here – nr. 7 is still missing. Have fun!