The offspring of famous singers/musicians rarely do their papas proud. If you've heard the juniors Sinatra and Hank, you know what I'm talkin' about. But Dweezil Zappa is paying tribute to his father in a way that does justice to an often-undervalued musical legacy.
Frank Zappa wasn't for everybody, which is kind of the point, really. What made the skilled rock singer/guitarist/composer—who died from prostate cancer in 1993 at age 52—so unique was his ability to mesh intricate, difficult musicianship with freakish, snide humor. Zappa and his Mothers of Invention pushed the boundaries of popular music (and good taste) at a time when much of rock and pop music was bland, predictable and bloated with self-importance. Sadly, due to off-color ditties such as "Don't Eat That Yellow Snow," "G-Spot Tornado," "Titties and Beer" and "Punky's Whips," many dismissed Zappa as an adults-only novelty act.
That's where Dweezil and his Zappa Plays Zappa tour comes in. Dweezil's mission is to dispel misconceptions about his father by showcasing his musical depth and compositional complexity—alongside the absurdist humor. And rather than round up a bunch of old Zappa band alums to faithfully cover note-for-note a batch of daddy's tunes, Dweezil wants to expose new generations of music fans to the Zappa canon by using younger musicians (most in their 30s).
Dweezil prepared diligently for Zappa Plays Zappa, spending two years altering his own guitar style to "expand myself and really dive into Frank's work." At the same time, he insists there's plenty of space for improvisation in the open areas of his dad's compositions. So, the trick, or challenge, then for Dweezil is to walk that fine line of exerting his own voice while remaining true to the spirit and sound of Frank's style.
Trust me, this ain't no Mickey Mouse tribute.
Zappa Plays Zappa performs at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583; www.hob.com . Wed., 8:30 p.m. $50-$150. All ages.
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