Monday, May 25, 2009

Ed Palermo Big Band - Eddy Loves Frank (Cuneiform, 2009)

Saxophonist and bandleader Ed Palermo has made a little cottage industry of arranging the music of iconoclastic guitarist and composer Frank Zappa. This is the third album in the series and it shows no signs of fatigue. Palermo's band is quite talented and they have to be to play this complex music. The exhausting thing about this music from the listener's (or at least my) perspective is that the music is so complicated and ever shifting that it is really hard to get a bead on what is going on. I eventually gave up on trying to track the solos and all of the complexities of what was happening and just allowed the music as a whole to carry me, going with a flow as it were, and it was an enjoyable way to appreciate this album. "Echidna's Arf" starts off as a grinding blues before moving into an intricate choppier section incorporating a tenor saxophone solo and some almost symphonic motifs. The music is labyrinthine and complex, constantly shifting and mutating like an evolving organism. "Dupree's Paradise" also has a fast tempo that is ever changing as the music recalibrates itself. The music at times seems to be interconnected cells that can be shifted or rearranged as the arrangement dictates. The only thing that seems a little out of place on this album is the arrangement of "America The Beautiful" which, although no doubt sincere, does not really fit in well with the madcap sensibility of the rest of the album. Far from the history of riff based big band music, this album draws on Zappa's fascination with avant garde classical as well as jazz, making for kaleidoscopic music that is like walking through a funhouse where everything is not as it seems. It can be daunting stuff at times, but still, you have to give credit to Palermo, not only for keeping a big band going during these tough economic times, but for finding a niche in the music of Zappa that inspires him to make creative music.
Eddy Loves Frank -

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