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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Frank Zappa’s Hot Licks (and Funny Smells)

Provocateur RAD 2007-2



1. Introduction & Anthem
2. Peaches en Regalia
3. Eat That Question
4. Let's Make The Water Turn Black
5. Watermelon In Easter Hay
6. Brown Shoes Don't Make It
7. Willie the Pimp
8. King Kong
9. A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus)
10 Waka Jawaka
11. Stevie's Spanking
12. Sinister Footwear - 2nd Mvt.
13. Little Umbrellas / Big Swifty
14. Black Napkins
15. Be-Bop Tango
16. G-Spot Tornado
Colin Towns – Conductor, arranger
Lennart Axelsson, Ingolf Burkhardt, Claus Stötter, Reiner Winterschladen - Trumpets
Dan Gottshall, Sebastian Hoffmann, Stefan Lottermann – Trombones
Ingo Lahme - Bass trombone, tuba
Fiete Felsch – Alto-sax, clarinet
Peter Bolte – Alto sax
Christof Lauer, Lutz Büchner – Tenor saxes
Frank Delle – Baritone sax, soprano sax
Vladyslav Sendecki – Keyboards
Stephan Diez - Guitar
Lucas Lindholm - Bass
Marcio Doctor - Percussion
Ian Thomas - Drums

Frank Zappa was not exactly a jazz fan. Indeed, he made the classic joke: "Jazz is not dead; it just smells funny". So an album of Frank’s music played by a jazz big band might seem inappropriate, except that Colin Towns is obviously a great fan of Zappa. Colin recognises that, whatever Frank said about jazz, his music was often very jazzy. In fact Zappa employed several jazz musicians (e.g. George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty and Ernie Watts), probably because he needed their technical expertise to perform his complex compositions.

Recorded live at the Moers Festival in Germany in 2004 by the German NDR Big band, this CD contains Colin Towns’ arrangements of such Zappa classics as Peaches en Regalia and King Kong, performed with respect for Frank’s brilliance as a composer and orchestrator. The NDR Big Band clearly contains musicians of sufficient quality to do justice to Colin Towns’ arrangements – and to improvise with the necessary wildness. For example, Ingo Lahme’s tuba solo on Let’s Make the Water Turn Black is suitably anarchic, while Stephan Diez’s guitar solo in Watermelon in Easter Hay pays a touching tribute to Zappa’s guitar expertise.

As with many "tribute" exercises, one might question the need to rework pieces that we can already hear on Zappa’s own recordings. But Colin Towns allows them to be heard by live audiences, and the crowd at the Moers Festival manifestly appreciated the opportunity. Colin is touring Britain with this programme in November. Like many live recordings, this CD makes up in atmosphere what it lacks in high fidelity. And it pays appropriate homage to a fine musician who has tended to be underrated because of his humorous, disrespectful approach to practically everything.

Tony Augarde

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