Zappanale (Then & Now) – The Grande Mothers

Between now and August 16th, 2009, the start of Zappanale’s 20th Jubilee, I am going to feature both past and present participants of Zappanale, beginning with The Grande Mothers.

The Grande Mothers feature Zappa alumni, Napoleon Murphy Brock (lead vocals, tenor sax, woodwinds and choreography), Don Preston (vocals, keyboards and transformations), and Roy Estrada (vocals, bass and pachuco falsetto), along with musicians Chris Garcia (drums, percussion and vocals) and Miroslav Tadic (electric guitar and all the difficult Zappa licks). Over the last few years they have toured to enthusiastic audiences in the US, Canada, Great Britain, as well as various stops in West and Eastern Europe showcasing their special blend of musical mayhem, virtuosic playing, bizarre humor, and as always, their playful love of the music, itself, and each other. And the feeling is contagious and infectious (or so was the sensation when they performed in my little neck of the woods last year).

Just don’t just take my word for it, though. Listen to the interview with the group (first clip). Watch them perform “Pygmy Twylyte” at the Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead, UK on the 12th March 2008 (second clip). Or perform “Peaches en Regalia” at the Sugar Nightclub for Victoria’s JazzFest ’08.

If those aren’t enough to convince you, click here, here, and here.

Author: urbangraffito

I am a writer, editor, publisher, philosopher, and foole (not necessarily in that order). Cultural activist and self-described anarchist.

8 thoughts on “Zappanale (Then & Now) – The Grande Mothers”

  1. I remember them playing in Rome in 2005.. they were great, and the thing that most amazed me was the bass skills of Roy, he’s really improved through these years… he played Echidna’s arf, Inca Roads and other hard tunes with easyness… I don’t think he had such songs to learn back in the seventies tours… I also tooh a photo with him signed “the mexican pope”… lovely…

  2. Not that impressed either. The arrangements are greatly simplified (where are the piano arpeggios on Peaches?) and the ensemble is pretty loose, to put it mildly. Only Napoleon seems to be making any real effort, the others just don’t look like they’re ‘on it’ at all. It’s interesting to hear him talking about the spontaneity of the Zappa band: this which is exactly what ZPZ and all the alumni bands seem to be lacking, there’s a sort of crushing inevitability about it.

    The best Zappa tribute band I’ve seen was a bunch of students from Birmingham (UK) Conservatoire, Aaron Diaz’s ZappaJazz. Not note-perfect by any means, but they really got all the crunchy harmonies, the counter-melodies, the energy, the groove and the all-important “eyebrows”.

  3. I’ve seen both The Grande Mothers and Zappa Plays Zappa. TGM certainly perform the earlier works better, and bring along with them the flavor and theatrics of the original Mothers; while Dweezil and ZPZ are much better at performing pieces from the latter part of FZ’s catalogue (i.e. Zappa in New York, Joe’s Garage, Shiek Yerbouti, Them or Us, Ship Arriving Too Late…). It’s unfortunate that GZ can’t see this. No single cover band, even with alumni, is going to appeal to everyone, or be capable of realizing the material of each and every period.

  4. I like the interview – especially at the end, when they agree that making FZ laugh was THE real fun. It’s great how lovingly they remember the ’75-76 period.
    BTW, not much stuff revived from that time (okay, some bootlegs and OZ, of course), but it would be fun to collect some pictures, here together from that time. Just to see them having fun. 🙂 Hm?

  5. Arrangements are made based on the instrumentation at hand
    How many of the other ensembles mentioned above are 5 piece ensembles?
    how many of them have over 100 three hour performances in their back pocket since 2003?
    is there any other 5 piece ensemble even trying to do this music out there?
    let alone an organization that includes alumni doing it on a consistent basis?
    these guys are as REAL as it is ever going to get
    no matter how fanatical the fan
    the fan was not there 24/7 for years with the MAESTRO
    who continued to utilize their talents again and again

    you can’t trace the MONA LISA
    well, I guess you could but what would be the point!

    ANYTHING ELSE IS NOT AN ORIGINAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    no matter what anyone thinks or says………………..
    ZAPPA AND HIS MUSIC LIVES ON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Can’t wait to see the GMs onstage this year at Zappanale.

    And everyone should seek out the full video from the 2002 Zappanale, the first one the GMs played at. And – really – I don’t just say that because I had the honor of being in the band – there is also a CD out of the show that raises funds for Jimmy’s family, I don;t make a cent on it.

    2002 Zappanale lineup:

    Napoleon Murphy Brock – vocals/sax
    Don Preston – vocals/keys
    Bunk Gardner – vocals/sax, flute
    Roy Estrada- vocals/bass
    Bob Harris – vocals/trumpet (special guest)
    Jimmy Carl Black – vocals (special guest)
    Andre Cholmondeley – vocals/guitar
    Glenn Leonard – drums

    With Candy Zappa, Bob Zappa and Miss Pamela watching onstage. Miss Pamela even got out and go-go danced on a tune, that was amazing, historically….

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