Sunday, October 16, 2016

Colin Towns NDR Big Band Frank Zappa's Hot Licks (And Funny Smells) 2005

Take a bright modern composer and arranger, a super-hot big band with amazing chops, and sixteen mostly jazz Zappa compositions. Put them all in front of a rabid German festival crowd, stir vigorously, and stand back. There could be an explosion.

Don't look for ballads. This is straight-ahead up-tempo wild abandon, except for the part where everything is completely in exact control. Zappa would be proud of the performance, arranged and executed with precision and verve. Tons of great solos from the horn players as well as the guitarist. And the drummer and percussionist are on fire throughout.

It is all about thirteen big brass instruments, and a smoking hot rhythm section. Repeatedly we hear Zappa's guitar solos twisted into horn charts and solos. More importantly, we get renditions of Zappa's music that sound as if he wrote for big band all the time. This has got to be credited to Mr. Towns' wonderfully interpretive arrangements that follow Zappa the composer's intentions while drawing out the best for use in the big band format. 

From the opening lilt of Peaches En Regalia to the titanic (and ridiculously difficult) closer G-Spot Tornado, everything works. Along the way we get fine brass arrangements of Watermelon In Easter Hay, King Kong, Waka Jawaka, Big Swifty, Black Napkins, and many more.

There are so many ways to enjoy Frank Zappa's work. Here's yet another good one.