Frank Zappa twitches and tangos with his Mothers in Aud

By Jerry Stabile

The Record, November 30, 1973

Frank Zappa is an artist. He never pauses for a retrospective view at himself; but rather, each time he gives a concert he presents a new aspect of his work.

Last Wednesday’s concert in the Aud strengthened this point about his music. He opened the set with a previously unrecorded
song but not new, for he's done it in concert for about two years, called Cosmic Debris.

In his usual bitingly satirical fashion, Cosmic Debris is a comment on all the pseudo religions that abound today. After lines like "then I wrapped a newspaper 'round my head, so it'd look like I was deep," he ended the song with a prediction for the swami the song was aimed at: "The price of meat has just gone up and your old lady has just went down!" Zappa always seems to be able to put things the right way to get a laugh.

Zappa is truly a modern composer. His music is written, controlled and directed yet like many of the progressive composers he can synthesize chaos, improvision and his musician's personality in each of his pieces.

Everytime Zappa tours he has a changed band, which makes attendance at his concerts more than going just to see a personality. With each change there comes a change in his music. The Mothers that came with him this time were playing two sets of drums, percussion, vibes, marimba and xylophone, bass, trombone, sax and (of course) guitar.

This line up is a change from his most recent album Overnite Sensation, thus a change in style. This band also lent itself to a more powerful rock-jazz style than he has had before, but it still continues the vocal tendencies of Overnite Sensation and Live at the Fillmore.

There were two selections from Overnite Sensation including Camarillo Brillo and Montana. Camarillo Brillo was dedicated to Buffalo because of the lines: She ruled the Toads / Of the short forest / and every newt in Idaho / And every cricket that had chorused / By the bush in Buffalo.

Montana has been a regular for the last two years (along with Cosmic Debris) in Zappa's playlist. But like any past composition of his each time he plays it it comes out different.

The most accessable highlight of the night was the presentation of the Bebop Twitching Tango and the dance lesson that accompanied it. The dance was explained by Zappa, executed by the band, and dictated by the scat singing of George Duke on keyboards.

Scat singing is a form that applies random phonetic syllables sung both quickly and slowly, usually in a vocal imitation of an instrument. It is primarily a jazz technique made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and Clark Terry. George Duke did the singing while Zappa explained the basic simplicity of the dance: "Just let George's notes dictate the movement of your body."

The effect was like watching someone getting pelted by a machine gun. Zappa, being a fun loving sort of guy, asked for two volunteers from the audience, to come up to the front of the stage and do the Twitch. Two finally came, but being inhibited exhibitionists and poor students, they couldn‘t grasp the simplistic palsy of the Bebop Twitching Tango.

The night was filled with good soloing. Zappa's were very straightforward guitar solos (but don't mistake me, they weren't common). The leads by Bruce Fowler on trombone was creative, using his instrument to its fullest capabilities. Zappa also used the double drummers, Ralph Humphrey and Chester Thompson, and Ruth Underwood on bongos for a unique, conducted drum solo between the three.

After many new pieces, Zappa ended his lengthy set. The response was loud and enthusiastic and Zappa (seemingly knowing that something familiar would be in order) played I'm The Slime for his encore.

Note. This is a November 21 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium concert review. There are no tapes of this show circulating and the songlist is not known. The band was FZ, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Tom Fowler, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Bruce Fowler, Ralph Humphrey, Chester Thompson. (FZShows)