Like father, like son.
It's an old adage that fits well when speaking of Zappa Plays Zappa, a national touring project that finds guitar virtuoso Dweezil Zappa recreating the music of his late great father, Frank Zappa.
"I'm not sure I went into it with any expectations," Zappa said. "My goal musically, was to just let the music speak for itself. To learn it as well as we could and to perform it as well as we could. To play it as Frank wrote it."
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Frank Zappa's musical style was that he had no set style at all. His music was all encompassing and included a lot of classical and jazz elements, as well as rock, blues and even a touch of country and funk. His music was not only experimental in many ways, but remarkably complex and ground breaking.
Though Dweezil Zappa still has his own recording career with nearly a dozen albums under his own banner, he feared his father's brilliant catalog of songs would be forgotten as the years passed, so he set out to prevent that from happening. He was not sure how much interest there would be when he first began performing "Zappa Plays Zappa" in 2006 with the blessing of all in the Zappa Family Trust, maintained by his mother Gail and siblings Ahmet, Moon Unit and Diva.
But with fortitude and great care the project came together. After hand–picking its members, Zappa's amazingly talented band worked for nearly two years learning songs before ever stepping out on a stage to present the show now praised by Zappa fans worldwide.
"I'm happy that so many people are still coming out to see and hear us," he said. "I'm happier still to see so many younger people coming out now to see and hear Frank's music."
Though Frank Zappa released more than 70 albums during his 30-plus years as a band leader and recording artist (another 30–plus live recordings have been added to the catalog since his death) few of his songs ever made it to radio or mass media outlets. Those that did — like 1982's Top 40 novelty song "Valley Girl" written and recorded with his then 14–year–old daughter Moon Unit — were not indicative of Zappa's deep body of work.
"A lot of people have the idea that Frank's music was comedy music or some sort of novelty music, but that is not the case," said Dweezil. "His music really has a lot of depth and variety in it with all the different things that he did. While there is certainly comedy aspects and elements in the music, the majority of the music he made doesn't have any of that. A good deal of his music was instrumental."
One of those instrumentals — "Peaches En Regalia" — as performed by Dweezil and his Zappa Plays Zappa band landed a Grammy Award for "Best Instrumental Performance" in 2009. "That really took us by surprise," he said.
Zappa said the show is far from being just a nostalgia trip. "Frank's music is very contemporary," he said. "In fact, much of it is still ahead of it's time. We try to emphasize the depth and variety of his music in the selections we perform."