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  1. #1

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    I was reading Wikipedia and some of the genres they list for musicians.

    I came across Zappa listed as a jazz fusion guitarist. I don't know much about him, but from what little I recall (Dancin' Fool, Valley Girl) didn't sound much like jazz or even jazz fusion. I think of jazz fusion guitarists like Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Lee Ritenour. Many people think Zappa had his own eclectic style. Did Zappa ever comment on this? Did he consider himself a jazz guitarist? Is Wikipedia right? Keeping in mind that the question is partially subjective, was Zappa a jazz guitarist? What do most people think?

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Assuming this isn't troll bait....with Zappa one shouldn't likely ask "why" - he was a musician who clearly didn't like to be labeled....

    And I know when I lived in Bruce Hall at NTSU/UNT most of the "jazzers" there in the 80's dug him and were way into his music...does that make is "jazz" :-)....I don't think Frank thought of himself as a straight jazzer though...but some of that was in the cooking that made up what he was...I'd say that is certain....

    A few Zappa quotes for fun....

    Jazz is the music of unemployment.

    Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.

  4. #3

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    For some, John McLaughlin isn't a jazz guitarist. For some, Jeff Beck is. For some, anyone after Wes is a pale imitator. Labels don't define the subject as much as they define the labeler.
    Zappa considered himself a composer who used a guitar to create something with the cooperation of his musical colleagues. There are many improvisors who don't call themselves jazz players, and many listeners who do label them as jazz players.

    At best Zappa had the highest standards of composition and performance in live and recorded situations, and some of the best acknowledged jazz players were proud to be thought of as his equal.

    David

  5. #4

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    around this time zappa was experimenting with adding barcus berry piezo pickups on his electric guitars..


    cheers

  6. #5

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    I think if Frank were alive today he'd say he's a classical composer who's pieces have elements of improvisation in them.

    As for being a Jazz guitarist? My humble opinion is no. He never soloed over 'changes'. It was either over a blues or a vamp. Not that there's anything wrong with that. My guess is that Frank never aspired to play jazz guitar in the traditional sense.

    He had his own thing going that satisfied him both artistically and financially. We should all be so lucky.
    Last edited by Dana; 01-24-2018 at 10:17 AM.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by countermoon
    I was reading Wikipedia and some of the genres they list for musicians.

    I came across Zappa listed as a jazz fusion guitarist. I don't know much about him, but from what little I recall (Dancin' Fool, Valley Girl) didn't sound much like jazz or even jazz fusion. I think of jazz fusion guitarists like Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Lee Ritenour. Many people think Zappa had his own eclectic style. Did Zappa ever comment on this? Did he consider himself a jazz guitarist? Is Wikipedia right? Keeping in mind that the question is partially subjective, was Zappa a jazz guitarist? What do most people think?
    an extremely talented musician and complex person..Zubin Meta performed his work..he sold millions of albums with virtually no radio air play..valley girl was his daughters-moon unit-hit record - he did the music - I think it was the only work he was involved in that "made the charts"..he worked with session musicians on much of his work and could be considered "jazz" to some..many don't think of him as a guitarist..but the man could play and compose in many styles..whatever opinions people have of frank..he did it his way..to me he was a perfectionist and the quality of his music reflects this..even simple basic rock & roll had quality .. yes some of his work was silly..and other parts were thought provoking..in an interview on TV with some well known host..he was asked if he was a hippy..he replied "I'm a business man" and he was every bit of that as well..

  8. #7

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    When Tommy Tudesco and Joe Pass met Frank Zappa at NAMM:

    "Taken from another angle: when Zappa met Tommy Tedesco and Joe Pass---Zappa is famous for making fun of jazz. The problem is: he couldn't play any.

    Excerpt:

    "The story goes like this according to Joe Pass and I'm paraphrasing: "Tommy and I were both very excited to hear the Frank Zappa would be gracing our small stage that day at the NAMM show." Joe went on to say "In fact I was nervous, my palms were sweating, I had read and heard that this man was one of the greatest guitarists and composers of all time, like a modern day Mozart."

    "We played a set, we waited, no Zappa, we played another set, still no Zappa. By this time, the suspense was killing both Tedesco and myself," (myself meaning Joe Pass.)

    "At last, we see a dark haired man wearing a black long cape surrounded by a flock of worshipers coming toward our stage. We had to stop playing because there was complete chaos around our booth as Zappa was signing autographs and his fans were trying to touch his garment."

    "After an hour of worship and autographs, he picks up a guitar and bangs out a couple of loud bar chords. Zappa turns to Tommy and asks, 'What do you guys what to play?'" Joe Pass started to rattle off tunes like Giant Steps, a John Coltrane classic, hey, Joe said, "we figured this Zappa guy is the best, lets play the most demanding music possible."

    "After requesting more then two dozen standards, we realized this guy couldn't play any standards, not one. We ended up playing a TOO loud 12 bar blues, that's all Frank could play. It was pathetic."

  9. #8

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    tedesco, pass and zappa appear to be havin a good time here!! with pisano! hah



    also tommy tedesco had been used as a session man by zappa before...

    cheers

  10. #9

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    The company you keep, and the people who invite you to their table when they don't have to says a lot.

    Very respected. Very musical.

    Is Frank Zappa a jazz guitarist?-screen-shot-2018-01-23-8-03-48-pm-png

    In later years, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, musicians of the highest caliber shared the stage, not a trade show novelty appearance, with him.





    During the 70's-80's, I spent a lot of time in NY. It was a really great time in a way because people were less concerned with whether you called it jazz, where it was coming from, as what it was, where it was going. Zappa played the Felt Forum every October. I learned so much about jazz from those shows, as I did from Art Blakey downtown.

    I studied with Archie Shepp. He hated the term "jazz". People said what he was doing wasn't jazz.
    Yup. I remember when people said Trane's music stopped being jazz when he stopped playing over changes.

    You can use your ears and say whether it's good improvisation. You can use the opinions of others to say whether it's jazz.

    David

  11. #10

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    I saw the Mothers a number of times from the earliest day to later versions of the band and I saw him sit in and play Blues with other bands. I got to speak to him for a couple minutes at the Whiskey once, nice guy and down to earth. An old music school buddy his parent were cellists with the L.A. Phil and did a lot of studio work. They played on the early sessions for Zappa and Mothers and said it was really interesting parts compared to typical session work for cello. So like most in this thread I think Zappa thought of himself as a composer first and foremost.

    Funny story from back in the day. Synthesizer guitar was starting to catch on and Lee Ritenour was doing some really cool stuff with it probably the best in town at the time. Zappa decided it would be good for the things he works on so he buys a complete setup. Zappa trying to use the Synth' guitar and it's a disaster misfiring and he can't get a clean line. So Zappa thinks it's how he has it setup, so he calls Lee Ritenour and asks Lee to come help him work out the bugs. Lee goes and spends the afternoon with Zappa and they give up. LAter Lee said Zappa's guitar playing is so based on hammer-ons and pull-offs the synth' pickup can't track him. That Frank needs to change is technique if he wants to use the synth'.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz

    In later years, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, musicians of the highest caliber shared the stage, not a trade show novelty appearance, with him.
    George Duke, Ian Underwood, and Steve Vai were all members of the Mothers and/or Zappa's later bands. Steve Vai started working for Zappa transcribing Franks guitar parts which are full of nightmare tuplets. If I remember right Zappa started wanting to be a percussionist studying modern classical composers. Zappa's bands always had great musicians to play his compositions and to follow his unique conducting. Probably one of best musicians to play with Zappa was Ruth Underwood vibe's and marimba player. Zappa's parts for her were at tough as the come. Zappa said she is the only person who could read those parts and play them.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by docbop
    So Zappa thinks it's how he has it setup, so he calls Lee Ritenour and asks Lee to come help him work out the bugs. Lee goes and spends the afternoon with Zappa and they give up. LAter Lee said Zappa's guitar playing is so based on hammer-ons and pull-offs the synth' pickup can't track him. That Frank needs to change is technique if he wants to use the synth'.
    or the synths had to get better..which they did!!

    tracking is much improved...even a common multi effect pedal pitch shifter can track a lot better than those early synths and rack/pedal gadgets

    zappa was also huge advocate of synclavier tech...

    for his compositions, he liked precise metronomic players, that still had an edge... (not necesarily swingers) ie. steve vai, terry bozzio, etc

    & he was a part of the early jazz fusion scene..especially in europe where he was highly influential..he hosted the byg free jazz festival in amougies belgium 1969

    with archie schepp-

    cheers

  14. #13

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    My point was basically: don't ridicule music you can't play, especially if you're a professional musician.

    To wit: Frank on Charlie Parker:

    " "I didn't hear any bebop until I moved away from San Diego, and moved to Lancaster and I came across a Charlie Parker album. I didn't like it—because it sounded very tuneless, and it didn't feel like it had any balls to it." He confirmed these early impressions in later interviews: in "The Mother of All Interviews" (Menn, 1993) he said, "I didn't like Charlie Parker. I didn't like some other modern jazz things. Listening to these things, I would go, 'Why do people like this? I don't understand it.'" And in the Zappa Late Show Special on BBC 2 TV in 1993, in his interview with Nigel Leigh he said:

    "I'd come into contact with Charlie Parker records and things like that, but they didn't hold my interest. I couldn't follow it. Same kind of argument that you'd get from people today: 'What are they doing? They're just noodling around,' you know. I mean, now I understand why they're noodling and where they're noodling and I can tell the difference between good noodling and bad noodling, but without certain musical clues, it just all sounded like noodles to me."

  15. #14

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  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    My point was basically: don't ridicule music you can't play, especially if you're a professional musician.

    To wit: Frank on Charlie Parker:

    " "I didn't hear any bebop until I moved away from San Diego, and moved to Lancaster and I came across a Charlie Parker album. I didn't like it—because it sounded very tuneless, and it didn't feel like it had any balls to it." He confirmed these early impressions in later interviews: in "The Mother of All Interviews" (Menn, 1993) he said, "I didn't like Charlie Parker. I didn't like some other modern jazz things. Listening to these things, I would go, 'Why do people like this? I don't understand it.'" And in the Zappa Late Show Special on BBC 2 TV in 1993, in his interview with Nigel Leigh he said:

    "I'd come into contact with Charlie Parker records and things like that, but they didn't hold my interest. I couldn't follow it. Same kind of argument that you'd get from people today: 'What are they doing? They're just noodling around,' you know. I mean, now I understand why they're noodling and where they're noodling and I can tell the difference between good noodling and bad noodling, but without certain musical clues, it just all sounded like noodles to me."
    this applies to a lot of people especially early jazz players like louis armstrong who didn't like bebop. same as all the jazz guys who didn't like fusion or free jazz or the young lions who didn't like anything after 1969 or the guys who don't like all the modern stuff.

  17. #16

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    zappa's lifelong icon was modern classical composer the great edgar varese....who had left europe in the 30's and moved to downtown nyc...zappa sent him letters as a kid......charlie parker was an even earlier admirer...had plans to study with varese!

    very important figure in modern classical music (& beyond)- edgar varese

    cheers

  18. #17

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    During the '70's I really liked Hot Rats, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Chunga's Revenge and Weasels Ripped My Flesh, but I never thought of them as jazz.

    In '78 we were in a new house and looking for new audio equipment. I was using Altec-Lansing speakers for some gigs and wanted them for the house. I would go to a very nice high-end audio store, long out of business, and audition speakers with a variety of records. When I played Peaches En Regalia through Altec Model 19's at stage volumes, all the salesguys would run out of the room and not let anyone else in until I was done.

    Photo of outcome:



    Danny W.
    Last edited by Danny W.; 03-27-2019 at 10:24 PM.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    ......'What are they doing? They're just noodling around,' you know. I mean, now I understand why they're noodling and where they're noodling and I can tell the difference between good noodling and bad noodling, but without certain musical clues, it just all sounded like noodles to me."
    Yeah, like he never noodled himself!

  20. #19

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    Well, he's got music in the Real Book:


  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    My point was basically: don't ridicule music you can't play, especially if you're a professional musician.

    To wit: Frank on Charlie Parker:

    " "I didn't hear any bebop until I moved away from San Diego, and moved to Lancaster and I came across a Charlie Parker album. I didn't like it—because it sounded very tuneless, and it didn't feel like it had any balls to it." He confirmed these early impressions in later interviews: in "The Mother of All Interviews" (Menn, 1993) he said, "I didn't like Charlie Parker. I didn't like some other modern jazz things. Listening to these things, I would go, 'Why do people like this? I don't understand it.'" And in the Zappa Late Show Special on BBC 2 TV in 1993, in his interview with Nigel Leigh he said:

    "I'd come into contact with Charlie Parker records and things like that, but they didn't hold my interest. I couldn't follow it. Same kind of argument that you'd get from people today: 'What are they doing? They're just noodling around,' you know. I mean, now I understand why they're noodling and where they're noodling and I can tell the difference between good noodling and bad noodling, but without certain musical clues, it just all sounded like noodles to me."
    Woo-hoo he didn't dig CP, big deal! It's not a requirement to like CP to be a great musician. It's not even requirement to like jazz to be great. His remarks about jazz were always tongue-in-cheek, in fact remarks about anything. They were funny and thought provoking, something that's missed in today's world.

    The irony is, though, FZ was a big noodler himself! His guitar work was always hit and miss for me. The albums too. Stuff like Sheik Yerbouti or Overnight Sensation were fantastic, but other, more jam oriented albums not so much.

    Still, I wouldn't put him under jazz label, more like 'experimental' music maybe, but it really doesn't matter, great is great, who cares.

  22. #21

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    Is Jimi Hendrix a jazz guitarist? Miles Davies like his playing very much....


  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    My point was basically: don't ridicule music you can't play, especially if you're a professional musician.
    It seems that to some extent, you're part of that significant group of "jazz defenders" that requires adoration of iconic personalities and technical bebop athleticism to attain membership. For a lot of people, the status of jazz (read bebop) as a high art requires a strict set of criteria in practice and a complicit agreement of aesthetics.

    Yeah, there are a lot of people who don't like jazz. Some are uncomfortable with the ostensible lack of form when their idea of form must be written out. Some are put off by a lack of production values in recordings where the sparse nature of jazz is essential as a live element. Some don't play it so they don't know the obstacles that are overcome to even do it.
    But Zappa didn't like it because he had a very well formed idea, aesthetically and technically, of what HIS music was; what music meant to him. In this, he had something that the large number of jazz players don't have: a thoroughly unique, rigorous, intricately executed and constantly evolving voice. In my book, that gives him the right to apply his filters to other musics.

    If your compositional sensibilities need original composition to be realized, need specialized and unique vehicles to be written as improvisational vehicles, you can belong to a musical aesthetic that only came into being post Shorter, or embrace an attitude that is now considered a baseline for young players; it's a compositional requirement. This is contemporary jazz (I've heard people refer to this as indulgent, or technical for the sake of being technical... sometimes called such by defenders of the bebop values). Well bebop and a lot of jazzers, see the Standard vehicles and the running of a prescribed language over changes as the be all and end all. Zappa didn't play jazz or even exist musically within those boundries. He really did create and work within his own genre.

    Maybe it's his ostensible lack of adoring respect that you find irksome. I am reminded that Zappa, more than many jazz players, worked deeply within a corrupt and unjust institution, namely the music business, and he garnered more judgemental criticism during his lifetime just on his ascerbic persona. But he was also an extremely articulate and staunch defender of musician rights and the right to create without interference, something that goes back to the beginnings of jazz.

    In that way, I do see that he had more in common with the values of jazz, if not the sound or requirements of self identified jazzers, than we might initially realize. He was sacreligious. He didn't hold back his punches. And he was very frank.

    David

    Check out this interview, especially from 13:00



    As a defender of free speech and the right to express, and even ridicule as a part of the musical art.


  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    Is Jimi Hendrix a jazz guitarist? Miles Davies like his playing very much....
    And Roland Kirk played with him. Once asked what he thought of Jimi, Kirk said "Jimi was a beautiful cat.". High praise from an undeniable jazzer.

    David

  25. #24

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    Frank may not have been good at playing over complex changes, but I bet Joe Pass or Tedesco would struggle with Frank's rhythms. I tried to learn "The Black Page" once. I think got through like 8 bars before I gave up. And if you look at Steve Vai's transcriptions of some of Frank's solos, he could improvise those polyrhythms as well.

  26. #25

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    Didn't sound like FZ was "ridiculing" bop, rather admitting he couldn't hear/understand it.