Here’s a small collection of tributes to Frank Zappa, from classical & jazz ensembles to gatherings of former members (even FZ’s own tribute to himself, featuring Jean-Luc Ponty). Zappa’s fans have long enjoyed outside interpretations of Frank’s work, largely because Frank himself continually rearranged & reinvented his own music from the start. We’ve been adding to this list for the last few years and have just upgraded everything (that we physically had) to 320. Click the covers to find these oddities at Amazon (when available). We’ve now got a (Phase Two) (HERE). Track Lists In Comments.
THE BAND FROM UTOPIA
A Tribute To The Music Of Frank Zappa (1995)
A 1994 live recording featuring a slew of Zappa alumni; Ike Willis, Chad Wackerman, Arthur Barrow, Tommy Mars, Bobby Martin, Ed Mann, Bruce & Tom Fowler & others. As you’d expect… this is pretty authentic.
The Zappa Album (2000)
A Finnish ensemble tackling Zappa’s music using only baroque-era instruments (cello, violin, oboe, harpsichord, dulcimer, and chamber organ). Well done and certainly a unique take. Thanks to Plop for the 320 upgrade.
Greggery Peccary/Other Persuasions (2002)
Best known as the ensemble that worked with Frank in his final years on The Yellow Shark and Everything Is Healing Nicely. Certainly the Master’s favorite ensemble collaborators.
Harmonia Meets Zappa (1994)
An Italian ensemble that approaches Zappa from various points of view. Classically based, with plenty of woodwinds, cellos and piano, Harmonia jets across Zappa’s varied styles. Harmonia’s solo piano take on “What’s New in Baltimore?” is a treat.
Oh No!… Just Another Frank Zappa Memorial Barbecue (2004)
A cool, brassy jazz outfit, largely instrumental, with some fun vocal tracks. There’s expected jazz stuff (“Little Umbrellas,” “Blessed Relief”) and some unexpected stuff, like “The Air.”
LE CONCERT IMPROMPTU & BOSSINI
Prophetic Attitude (1997)
A French wind quintet (bassoon, horn, clarinet, oboe & flute) founded in 1989 that focuses largely on Frank’s late 60s and early 70s material to good effect. Actually kind of sophisticated, in an “eye brow” sort of way.
MERIDIAN ARTS ENSEMBLE BRASS QUINTET
Prime Meridian (1993)
Smart Went Crazy (1995)
Sorry… cheated on this one a bit. These cuts are from two different CDs by the Meridian Arts Ensemble Brass Quintet, who covered Frank’s music on each of these releases (along with the works of Stravinsky, Strayhorn, Hendrix, Beefheart, London and many others). This post is just the Zappa material from each bundled together. The track list is in Comments.
THE MUFFIN MEN featuring Ike Willis
The Muffin Men are a great listen. With one of FZ’s most recognizable voices, Ike Willis, singing lead, this stuff is real faithful to Zappa’s originals. The group has released other FZ tribs over the years and this is one of the best.
THE MUFFIN MEN
Frankincense: The Muffin Men Play Zappa (1998)
Another excellent Muffin Men release, this one featuring a recording of Mothers’ drummer Jimmy Carl Black telling a story (over a “King Kong” jam) about a live gig when the Mothers were showered with eggs and pears by the radical SDS.
OMNIBUS WIND ENSEMBLE
Music By Frank Zappa (1995)
A Swedish wind ensemble that sometimes swings with a jazz vibe across many of Zappa’s disparate styles. They’re not afraid to tackle “Revised Music For A Low Budget Orchestra” or “Inca Roads.”
THE ED PALERMO BIG BAND
Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa (1997)
A blistering jazz ensemble fronted by alto saxophonist Ed Palermo. Great material and some stellar big band/jazz arrangements. Guitarist Mike Keneally, another ex-alumni, guests.
THE ED PALERMO BIG BAND
Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance (2006)
Another in a series of excellent CDs featuring jazz takes on Frank’s music from sax man Ed Palermo. There’s some fantastic arranging and playing on this one that should please FZ fans.
Frankly A Cappella (2000)
No introduction needed. The world’s premier a cappella group (who were first signed to Zappa’s Straight label back in the 60s), handling Frank’s complicated doo-wop with ease.
King Kong (1969)
This should be considered an official FZ LP, as Frank writes, arranges & produces various Mothers. Was FZ looking to avoid another Lumpy Gravy legal fiasco by using one time cohort, electric violinist Ponty as a front?
Plays Frank Zappa (2006)
Curious, surely illegitimate, live recording from child prodigy Abigail Sin, subtitled “Five Pieces For Treated Piano and Modulator.” We wonder what the audience is laughing about during “RDNZL.” I like her school assembly version of “Let’s Make The Water Turn Black.”
UMO JAZZ ORCHESTRA Feat. Marzi Nyman
UMO Plays Frank Zappa (2004)
Rare 17 minute magazine freebie featuring guitarist Marzi Nyman with arrangements by Ed Palermo. “Peaches En Regalia,” “The Idiot Bastard’s Son,” “King Kong” & “Sofa.” Upgraded to 320.
Zappa’s Universe (1993)
Released during Frank’s lifetime, this is a live gathering of alumni spearheaded by guitarist Mike Keneally & bassist Scott Thunes, who anchored Frank’s last touring group. Guests include The Persuasions, Steve Vai, Dale Bozzio and Dweezil Zappa.
Unmatched: Tributo A Zappa (1996)
Performed by largely Spanish/Latin musicians and spearheaded by longstanding Zappahead, Caballero Reynaldo. This is the first of thirteen volumes of Unmatched, all with a vast array of bands tackling Frank’s work, and all tough to find (read more here).