After a successful inaugural run on the road in 2006, Dweezil Zappa hopes that this year establishes his Zappa Plays Zappa tribute to his late father, Frank Zappa, as a going and potent concern.
“What I’ve been hearing from people who saw the original tour was just an overwhelming sense of thankfulness — just, ‘Thank you for doing this,'” the younger Zappa tells Billboard.com. “We’ve put so much time into this, and attention to details. It sounds authentic, the way it’s supposed to sound.”
This year’s just-underway Zappa Plays Zappa tour, which will play 30 dates in North America and 17 in Europe, continues last year’s model of abetting the core Zappa Family Trust Band with guests from Zappa’s past — this year featuring vocalist Ray White. The new repertoire, meanwhile, draws from early ’70s favorites such as “Over-Nite Sensation” and “Apostrophe (‘),” part of an ongoing attempt to keep the tours fresh and different by dipping into different parts of Zappa’s 80-plus album catalog.
“We expect that the people who are interested in this project are going to be repeat visitors,” he explains, “though we would like to see as many brand new people get introduced to the music as possible. So you have to provide variety to the people who are supporting it in the long run if they’re going to keep coming on an annual basis.”
Zappa acknowledges that this year’s lineup doesn’t quite have the star power of last year’s, which featured guitarist Steve Vai, drummer Terry Bozzio and singer Napoleon Murphy Brock. But he says that’s part of an “educational process” that the music and not the players are the star of the show.
“I’ve always said from the beginning that giving the alumni members more importance than Frank’s music is the wrong way to perceive this,” explains Dweezil, who plans to release a DVD filmed at December shows in Portland, Ore., and Seattle. “I think it’s easy for people to think, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great if they got all these people’ and it’s like a circus atmosphere where you bring out the next special guest.
“But that’s not what makes Frank’s music Frank’s music. Those people had the great opportunity to work with him, but it’s not because of them that the music is what it is. You’ve got to remember that Frank wrote this stuff down on paper. It came right out of his mind, and other people were taught how to play it. The music is the only reason we’re doing this.”