After volumes 1 and 2, released as a double album in 2017, we needed a volume 3, and are thankfully rewarded. The conductor and outstanding arranger Ed Palermo guides his big band of 16 musicians with his usual precision, to serve up a kaleidoscope of mashups in which a host of English hits are stamped with bits (and pieces) from Frank Zappa’s catalogue. Palermo, who has already released seven albums containing big-band arrangements of Zappa’s music, has gone completely nuts and he’s putting them everywhere (only his preceding record, A Lousy Day In Harlem, didn’t touch Zappa, tapping instead Ellington, Gismonti, Coltrane, Monk, and his own compositions). Having said that, the fan won’t complain, especially because it’s always done with great accuracy, but also because if you like Zappa, you’re bound to like the kind of collage Palermo does, even if sometimes it’s a bit like a quiz.
The programme is strongly tinted, after Zappa, by the Beatles, and certainly less diversified than the previous volumes, on which Cream, King Crimson, the Rolling Stones, The Nice and even Radiohead crossed paths. Here, Traffic, Jethro Tull, and Procol Harum are back, along with The Moody Blues (“Nights in White Satin” mixed with Zappa’s “Moggio”), The Hollies (“Stop Stop Stop”, which emerges from “Within You Without You”, then slaloms between “Little House I Use To Live In” and “G-Spot Tornado”), and even Thunderclap Newman (a short “Something In The Air”).
Some amalgams almost make you dizzy, like Zappa’s “Let’s Move To Cleveland”, with the Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole”, from which the “King Kong” riff eventually steps out, or “Come Together”, its rhythm serving as the basis for “Chunga’s Revenge”, with a small dose of “Light My Fire” from The Doors and a hint of a reprise of the theme from “G-Spot Tornado”… And that’s not counting the microcitations that the various soloists swing one after the other in the mix. Violinist Katie Jacoby shines particularly brightly in “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
In short, for the fan of these bands, it’s a celebration. An outstanding ensemble sound and a most eclectic selection from the great Palermo, with polished production.