Frank Zappa, Fake Rocker Or True Jazz Man?

Attention French shoppers! Jazz Magazine‘s June issue has an 18 page special on FZ.

Jazz Magazine June 08 FZ Special

As you can see there’s an interview with Jean-Luc Ponty on how he first met FZ, while the main article attempts to provide an answer to the question:

Zappa, Fake Rocker or True Jazz Man?

Your insights are welcomed in the comments…

(Via Gilles)

19 thoughts on “Frank Zappa, Fake Rocker Or True Jazz Man?”

  1. Well I wish I could read this article…

    I think of FZ as a composer who worked in rock, jazz, blues and classical and whatever other areas he chose. He was also a musician.

  2. Isn’t Zappa’s jazz underrated?
    Mabye it won’t be anymore. It’s so fun and unique. Not only is it different and a great time, there is so much mastery in the musicians’ playing, all of them.

  3. This post happens to be a new proof- in – the – eating of what I sincerely mean: FZ was one of the first border crossers in music. Thus : disturbing for pigeon holed minds such as (1) jazz – & (2) classical music fans. And believe me, those people are truly ” fans”, meaning : narrow minded fanatics.
    Can you imagine the stunning effect on those people when a very respected classical music conductor & composer like P. Boulez all of a sudden conducted FZ music, way back then?
    And – right now- classical music students & scholars are still puzzled when they explore FZ scores. Just one present day example, an exercise in discovering 20th century classical music ideas in FZ music:

    Did FZ music close the door of a period? It’s easy to argue along that line.
    Better is to argue that he actually opened new ways of musical thinking, overlooking solid musical borders.

  4. Maybe it comes down to whether you are afraid of iconoclasts or not? I’ve always been drawn to more ‘artistic’ bands and composers, so when I found FZ I LOVED it. The music, the album artwork, his opinions, his use of any style in the stew of his music that fit his composition, etc, the whole package was a giant slap in the face to traditionalists and conservatives. Plus, it was musical! ūüėČ

    People think Coltrane is a jazz giant now, but I think at the time he was likely viewed as too crazy by many in the “jazz world”. But, I don’t think FZ will ever get the attention he deserves, I’m sorry to say. At least not in a major way like he should be remembered. The comedy aspect will likely always be a major stumbling block, no matter the type of music purist who is doing the resisting.

  5. [quote comment=”1296″][quote comment=”1295″]Wow, a completely useless post. Thanks for something I can’t read.[/quote]
    Learn French.[/quote]

    Okay boys and girls, before this turns into a tag-team wrestling match, why not try:

    it’s always worked for me. And if it doesn’t, you can always whack your opponent over the head with it. Hotcha!

  6. [quote comment=”1295″]Wow, a completely useless post. Thanks for something I can’t read.[/quote]

    Useless to you. There are not only other languages out there, but people who can speak them. Or don’t they count?

  7. Jazz was born out of black american experience. So, is it any surprise that some, if not most, of the early jazz practitioners were persons of color (Coltrane, Davis, Mingus, Parker, Holiday, Dolphy, Monk, etc.). Unfortunately, like a lot of popular music, it’s been hijacked by academics and their rather “snooty” attitudes of what makes up real Jazz or not, just like try to determine which Classical composers are relevant or not. Does Zappa fit in? Is it for them to tell us? We already know that answer…

  8. Urban, sorry, I sincerely believe & hope that this blog is ‘ bout being “so happy together”.
    Not for people with square eyes. For people who want to discover things , the open minded way, overlooking ( imposed ) pigeon hole thinking.
    Nobody’s hijacking the other.It’s about art, in this case musicians, free minds ” hijacking ” , ie stealing ideas from each other & developing it further one way or another. Just jump into this blog , you’ll discover√®se. That’s an idea about percussion. That’s about popular music stealing ideas from another musical world. Good musicians are open minded, they just hear things & know how it’s done & develop it further.
    And by the way as for jazz: yes it was born ” out of black american experience”. Does this means that there were actually no whites who had a big footprint on its development? One of them is the great Canadian, Gil Evans, the master of colouring music. For instance one of his ” tricks”, ideas was to turn a band / orchestra upside down : the tuba ( bass ) played the major part, the others lilited themselves to …

  9. White jazz? Like white bread, it might very well be edible, but not very nutritious no matter what is put between the slices. One cannot ignore the roots of jazz in its early 20th century context in relation to racism, urban conflict, and mass migration of American blacks from the deep South to the North. Whites may have imitated what they heard, but in no way played a part in it’s development. The same racism exists now in musical studies programs at colleges and universities since the vast majority of academics are white (having come from privileged economic upbringings, in contrast to their persons of color counterparts). The system is systemically racist. At least Zappa had the foresight to hire musicians with a history of playing jazz themselves (i.e. George Duke had played with Cannonball Adderly and Dizzy Gillespie) and so not fall into the “white jazz” category (though given FZ’s eclectic musicians, I doubt this would ever have occurred). Still, I think FZ was sensitive enough to the roots of jazz, and race relations in America, to tread carefully. Far too often the terms “open-minded” and “it’s about art” have been used to cover up topics such as racism, sexism, et al.

  10. [quote comment=”1310″]White jazz? Like white bread, it might very well be edible, but not very nutritious no matter what is put between the slices.[/quote]
    I understand where you’re coming from but — c’mon — there’s some really good “white” jazz out there…

    * Bill Evans
    * Stan Getz
    * Chet Baker
    * Enrique “Mono” Villegas
    * Phillipe Cathérine
    * Toots Thielemans
    * Django Reinhardt
    * Bossa Nova / Tropicalia
    * heck, Frank Zappa

    … to name but a few.

    Race is an insidious pitfall — one we need to surpass, me thinks.

  11. The ‚Äúwhite‚ÄĚ jazz I’m referring to Barry is that jazz which was performed by all white orchestras during the 20s, 30s, 40s and paid their musicians top dollar while truly great “black” musicians were still being segregated and refused entry into performance halls to perform what was, in essence, “their music.”

    I’m not suggesting only persons of color can perform jazz, just as the blues are not the music of any particular race, either. They do, however, both have their roots in the black american experience. One should acknowledge their tremendous contribution to 20th century music. Far too often the dominant culture has usurped the culture of others for its own purposes. Indeed, all those musicians* you listed owe a debt to all those struggling black musicians of the early 20th century, don’t you think?

    Race is only pitfall for those who do not have to experience it on a daily basis.

    For example, in the US brown is the new black.

    Hey, you know something people?
    I’m not black
    But there’s a whole lots a times
    I wish I could say I’m not white

  12. I fully agree with Barry. It’s about having an impact on Music, on making good music, whatever your colour is. And it’s not a good choice to allow your mind / ear to be locked up into a square meter, musically ( genres, which are basically an invention made by critics, not by musicians) or socilogically ( race, etc. ).

    One the very, very best jazz CDs I have & keep listening to is ” Kaleidoscopes” ( Ornette Coleman Songbook, transscribed for piano & acoustic bass- Hat Hut Records 1993) by Paul Plimley & Lisle Ellis. Whow, what a great record. Both PP & LE are .. white Canadians. And nobody will ever deny the other great white Canadian, Gil Evans, his place in the 20 top jazz artists.

    Do they owe a debt to .. ? Yes. Just like – let’s turn the reasoning upside down and explore the architypical white western music, ie classical music:
    -the Japanese are amongst the greatest performers & conductors of the JS Bach cantates; and – yes, yes,
    -there are extremely talented black conductors ( see : africlassical).

    Who cares if the ” owe ” something? They just make Good Music. It ends up in black, eastern, white ears, and the listener enjoys it. And it brings people ( segmented audiences ) together.

  13. So, indeed, the basic message is:

    Don’t try to read, to see, to smell, to argue, etc. the world ( past & present ).

    Just give it a listen. Hear & decode. Listen to the world.

    That’s an exercise imposed on the other side of the human brain. Entries are- over there- in princible disconnected.

    According to sc. research the way you listen , i e understand music, i e sounds is located in a different part of your brain.
    Just try to drop & forget to involve the connections between the left& right side of your brain.

  14. 330 dpi scan –> ocr –> babelfish

    The summer 2008 will see the return in strength of the founder of the modern violin jazz JEAN-LUC PONTY. In
    Vienna, in first part of the concert of its JLP Band, it will recreate with I’Ensemble of Basse-Normandie part of
    the repertory of King Kong (1969), that Zappa had written for lul. Memories. By Thierry Quénum

    JAZZ: How did your meeting with Frank Zappa occur?
    JEAN-LUC PONTY: Let us retrogress a little: I am winged for the first time in the United States in 1967
    at the instigation of John Lewis. Artistic director of the festival of Monterey, I wanted to join together Violin
    Summit which had occurred in Basle in 1966. The producer Richard Bock located me and signed on this
    occasion. He then made me return in 1968 to record my first American disc with the orchestra of Gerald Wilson.
    This time I insisted to also make a round of the clubs, I wanted to confront the musical jazz environment in the
    country which saw it being born, to include/understand the roots of them, instead of the speech more or less
    like a foreign language. Thus I met George Duke, who luii also began, and one has starts has to play together.
    Richard Bock – who had founded Pacific Jazz and World Pacific – was a visionary. I recognized it later. It had
    perceived my potential of evolution and had signed me on World Pacific, just like Ravi Shankar a little earlier.
    He was a Buddhist vegetarian, and his guru became later that of Beatles. After I recorded a second disc live
    with George Duke, Bock wanted to benefit from my presence in California to associate to me with pop groups
    or rock’n’roll

    JAZZ: It was not really your universe…
    JLP: At all! After being master key of traditional purism to purism jazz, I wanted nothing to hear that.
    One remained hours prejudices his office to listen to as well Doors as Simon & Garfunkel. It was the time
    when one made also enregstrer pop topics has musicians of jazz for trade names. For my part I stuck in
    Charlie Parker and Coltrane. Finally, in the middle of all that, Bock mentioned Frank Zappa, that I knew little
    about, but about which I had intended to speak in French the jazz medium. I said: ‘ Why not? ‘. Glass of bier
    organized the appointment and I remember well the impression of cultural shift which I had while arriving to
    Zappa: in Europe, even Beatles had the hair only semi-long; there, he had there tails of horse and kids who
    ran everywhere in the house at midnight or any hour of the morning… I expected to see a star of the
    rock’n’roll a little haughty, but Zappa did not correspond at all to this image. He did not know me, but Bock
    made him listen to the recording live with George Duke, and his reaction was to say: ‘ Waoh! I can’t play with
    these guys. They are too great for me! ‘ [Note: ‘ I cannot play with these guys. They are too strong for me! ” ].
    The world with back! Finally, when II has compns qu II S acted D to write music for me and to produce the
    meeting, I accepted. Fifteen days later the music was ready! For the recording, I held has to keep George
    Duke not to be lost in l’universe of Zappa which, even if it is not mentioned on the disc for contractual
    reasons, was the artistic director and chose the musicians. But, in fact, the latter were especially musicians of
    jazz, commee each time it recorded in studio with the époqiie. I acknowledge not to have completely
    included/understood what occurred musically during the recording, but when I heard the disc that rained me,
    and that opened the ears to me on a music which I did not listen to at the time

    JAZZ: Which part of this program will be played has Vienna?
    JLP: Although I would be accompanied by the Instrumental Unit by Basse-Normandie, and after
    discussion with the arranger Jean-Luc Rimey-Meffle, one will not play Music for Electric Violin and Low
    Budget Orchestrata. It is not the most original part of Zappa: one feels there much the influence of
    Stravinsky. As much to play a stronger oeuvre of Stravinsky itself in this case. In fact, one will play pieces
    CPU were reproduced on the face has 33-rpm. They seem to me definitely more original and typical of Zappa

    JAZZ: It is the first time that you rejouez this music. Which effect that does it make?
    JLP: The Instrumental Unit has a Zappa program definitely more consequent, and I intervene there
    only on one score of minutes. For the remainder, I will play the same evening in Vienna with my own group,
    the JLP Band. The effect that does make me? I do not know anything of it since I did not replongé myself yet
    in this music. II will have there only one repetition right before the concert, but I have a good musical memory
    and they are very distinct melodies. I will not have a problem has to find my marks

    JAZZ: Before speaking about your own group, could you return on the continuation of your collaboration
    with Zappa, which less better occurred I believe…
    JLP: Not at the beginning. In 1973, Zappa required of me to belong to Mothers of Invention – just as
    George Duke – because he wanted high level musicians to play his instrumental music. But in fact, one
    forever played the topics of King Kong as a public. Zappa occurred prejudices of big rooms and was
    prisoner of his image. However what his public wanted, they was songs. Gradually, one thus played less and
    less of instrumental and I found myself with only one solo by evening. The remainder of time, I accompanied
    by the songs. Like I had other ambitions, I left very quickly

    JAZZ: Meanwhile there is Canard du jour, this strange piece in duet with Zappa which is reproduced
    on Shut Up `N Play Yer Guitar without mention of date…
    JLP: That goes back to 72. I was in California to record a disc of Michel Colombier. I called Frank to
    say to him [I expected has to see a star of the rock’n’roll a little haughty, but Zappa did not correspond at all
    has this image] hello and he invites me to his place. At the time, he had broken the leg and, not being able to
    turn during year, recorded much in studio. One improvised during hours and finally he has guard only this
    duet where he cheek of the bouzouki and me of the violin baritone. He published it well later

    JAZZ: After Zappa, you join Mahavishnu before forming your own groups. In these two cases, after the
    traditional one and the jazz, you adopted the jazz-rock’n’roll, idiom in which you always express yourselves.
    How did the passage take place? Air of time? A personal feeling?
    JLP: A little both. I am contemporary of Beatles, Mick Jagger, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea…
    Whereas I still lived in Europe, I had played with the German pianist-claviériste Wolfgang Dauner Рwe
    reformed a duet recently. Together we had made, in 1972, a round in Germany with Robert Wyatt, the
    beater of Software Machine. Like certain musicians of jazz, I was interested in the new instruments. Of their
    with dimensions, certain musicians coming from the rock’n’roll were interested by the improvisation. We had
    thus some good reasons to meet us. In California, in 1973, the fact of playing with Zappa then made me
    considerably evolve/move in my approach of the music. He also was impassioned by all these novel
    methods which transformed the sound: pedals wah-wah, phase shifter, boxing ring modulator… My
    electrified violin enabled me to test these innovations on the same basis as a guitarist. By affleurs the jazz-
    rock’n’roll – that I tested with Mahavishnu – enabled me to integrate my knowledge in the field of the
    classical music. As of end of the year 60, has Paris, I had started to write compositions. But, to the rilveau
    of lyricism like structures, they did not correspond to the framework of the bebop. The structures that Zappa
    or McLaughlin wrote, each one with its way, allowed me contrary to getting rid of the tradition of the jazz
    and the standards to let me guide by what came me to mind. The jazz was still very ‘square’ at that time,
    whereas the jazz-rock’n’roll allowed this evolution. My current music thus includes/understands always a
    large share of structure, but also a large share of improvisation. For this reason the orchestra remains very
    stable and that – except rare exceptions like Parisian Thoroughfare de Bud Powell on my last disc – the
    compositions are generally of me. That allows also to fidéliser, with the international level, a public which
    continues has to come to see and hear the JLP Band, whereas everyone claims that the jazz-rock’n’roll died!

    JAZZ: The most recent stylistic evolution in your music has √©t√©l’ integration of elements and African
    JLP: I discovered the music tnbale africa thanks to the belgian bass player Ben√īit Quersin, who was
    going to record some on the spot in the Sixties, and that interested me much. When I have start has to
    compose of the pieces polyrythmic at Mahavishnu, I wrote them into ternary whereas those of McLaughlin
    were binary. But, during my stay with the United States, I lost the contact with this music. At the time d’ a
    stay has Paris, in 1988, one has me breads African musicians who lived there. When I met Brice Wassy, it
    me EM presented some. I formed ave C them a group E that j’ recorded ‘Tchokola’. I as discovered as a
    part of them were also musicians of jazz, cross-pieces by various influences. And of their with dimensions,
    several African musicians pointed out to me the specificity of my rhythmic approach. Since I always have
    preserve African musicians in my group and my music is become again more acoustic

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