Gotan Project: Chunga's Revenge

You know tango has arrived in the postmodern age when the bandoneón player starts up Frank Zappa's "Chunga's Revenge." Sacrilege? The fans don't think so. Paris-based Gotan Project has been the biggest-selling tango act of the new millennium, and the band has brought its iconoclastic music to enthusiastic audiences everywhere from Tokyo to Tel Aviv. After listening to Gotan Project, it's hard to remember why tango purists got so worked up about Astor Piazzolla. This band long ago went outside the gravitational pull of Carlos Gardel and Aníbal Troilo, crafting a new tango sound that is consciously looking beyond the tradition for different sources of inspiration. Gotan Project is especially skilled at crafting chill-out music with a piquant Argentinean flavor. So long, Buenos Aires, welcome World Fusion!

July 10, 2008 · 0 comments


Ed Palermo: Toads of the Short Forest

The next time some sourpuss tells you that the big band is dead . . . whip out your copy of The Ed Palermo Big Band Plays the Music of Frank Zappa. Better yet, just cold-cock the guy and keep your copy of this CD. It's too good to share with the naysayers, plastic people, brain police, San Bernardino police department, and other small-minded weasels who wouldn't appreciate a big band unless it had bubbles floating out from behind the bandstand. Ed Palermo takes this song from Zappa's Weasels Ripped My Flesh (but without also borrowing -- alas! -- the stylish Roy Lichtenstein-esque illustration that distinguished this memorable Mothers' release) and reworks it into a smooth band chart. Bob Mintzer high-steps over the 6/8 rhythm with such grace and ease that soon you're forgetting about weasels and toads, and are ready for the TV dinner by the pool.

January 08, 2008 · 0 comments


Jean-Luc Ponty & Frank Zappa: King Kong

Hmmm, a Blue Note release with liner notes by Leonard Feather? How did Zappa get through the security at Rudy Van Gelder's studio? Not to worry: no long-haired hippie freak went anywhere near Rudy's equipment. The session took place out West where things are looser. And Zappa didn't even play on the date (although he is credited as composer and arranger, and lent some of his bandmates for the proceedings). Even more to the point, some of the music on the King Kong LP is quite jazzy. Skip the long-winded "Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra," and head straight for the title track. "King Kong" belongs in the Fusion Hall of Fame (when they open it). A churning, bubbling cauldron of 6/8 is about ready to boil over. The hopping and skipping melody is followed by an explosive George Duke solo (I actually think I hear artillery fire in the background), and then Ponty soars. This one will make you want to climb to the top of the Empire State Building and take on a half-dozen biplanes.

January 04, 2008 · 0 comments


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