[13 December 2009]
“What Edgard Varèse was to Frank Zappa, Frank Zappa is to me,” New York-based composer and bandleader Ed Palermo once stated. And 15 years after he began cooking up big-band arrangements of Zappa’s finest compositions in the wake of the guitar legend’s tragic death via a near-decade-long residency at the famed NYC nightclub The Bitter End, Palermo and his 18-piece orchestra have perfected over 200 songs from Frank’s varied repertoire. For his third album of Zappa tunes, the saxophonist gets more adventurous in his selections with a comfort and confidence he never displayed on record before. Yes, some tried-and-true Zappa classics appear on Eddy Loves Frank, like “Regyptian Strut”, “Dupree’s Paradise”, and “Let’s Move to Cleveland”. Even more intriguing on this album is Palermo’s choice to reconfigure the computerized “Night School” from Zappa’s 1986 album Jazz From Hell, which largely consisted of experiments with the then-groundbreaking Synclavier Digital Audio System (an early version of the sampler). Say what you will about the decision to end the album with a sincere cover of “America the Beautiful”, but hardcore Zappa fans will certainly see it as a fitting tribute to The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life. Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before Ed starts to venture into Uncle Meat-territory, where things could get really interesting.