Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fun book

Flights of fancy can be a very good thing. Sometimes they can lead to new and interesting things, and sometimes they are just a bit "out there", and make you think.

I'm browsing through a .pdf version of a book full of all sorts of wonderful weirdness called the "Codex Seraphinianus". Some are calling it The World's Weirdest Book, with images such as:

I think it's a hoot. You can download the pdf file (50meg.) HERE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Frank Zappa drummers

While I'm not the biggest Zappa fan, I certainly do like some of his music, and some of it I like a LOT. I have always appreciated what a musical free spirit he was, and how he had some of the best musicians on the planet in his various bands; people like George Duke, Terry Bozzio, Steve Vai, Vinnie Colaiuta, Ruth Underwood, etc.

And for all the silly stuff that most folks know him by, he also wrote some of the most complicated music any musician ever had to read. And they often had to play it while engaged in some musical comedy routine. But they could do so because they knew the music cold, as Zappa would rehearse his bands eight hours a day, five days a week for at least two or three months before heading out on tour. That's a lot of work!

I just came across a cool roundtable discussion featuring ex-Zappa drummers organized by Terry Bozzio, who played with him from '75-'78. With him are Ralph Humphreys ('72-'74), Chester Thompson ('74-'75, later tour drummer for Genesis), and percussionist Ruth Underwood ('68-'76). Ruth had basically stopped playing after Zappa because, well, any other music was not going to be quite as interesting!

7 episodes, and there's a link on the page of the first one to a 4-drummer drum jam that lasts for 42 minutes!

More drums 'n Zappa - Terry with the "Zappa Plays Zappa" band last year (led by Zappa's son Dweezil), playing "The Black Page". This was written for Terry by Frank back in 1976, and the tune got its name from the fact that Zappa wrote it in a slow time signature, so all the fast stuff is in 32nd notes and the page looks like a blur of ink. Terry is joined by the aforementioned Steve Vai for Part 2:

(Steve Vai first came to prominence as Zappa's "stunt guitarist" in '81, to play parts that Frank wrote that even he could not easily play on guitar. Vai had transcribed some Zappa guitar solos while he was studying at Berklee, and Frank paid him to continue that until Steve graduated and then joined the Zappa band.)