The late Frank Zappa left a mighty footprint, and though dozens of artists have attempted to re-create the man's music, very few have measured up to Zappa's incredibly high standards.
Zappa's music is among the most technically demanding and stylistically varied in all of 20th century American music, and though one could find a dozen or so tribute bands operating across the country at any one given time, true Zappa heads have had to settle for, at best, close approximations of their hero's works, in the concert setting.
Dweezil Zappa is Frank's son and, based on Monday's Zappa Plays Zappa show in UB's Center for the Arts, his artistic heir apparent as well. Two years back, Dweezil set about recruiting a host of talented young musicians to play his father's music in a fashion that would please the maestro himself.
Rather than opting only for the biggest names among the vast list of players who served time with Frank's many incredible bands, Dweezil sought to create a whole new troupe of Zappa-minded musicians. In vocalist/sax player/keyboardist Schiela Gonzalez, bassist Pete Griffin, drummer Joe Travers (a Dweezil confidant), vibe player Billy Hulting, guitarist Jamie Kime and keys/trumpet man Aaron Antz, he found the right players to do just that.
Throughout the show, vocalist/saxophonist/flutist Napoleon Murphy Brock was Dweezil's on-stage foil, and his singing, interpretive dance segments and playing were all top-notch.
And later, in guitarist Steve Vai and drummer/vocalist Terry Bozzio, Dweezil relied on two of the greatest, most virtuosic showmen to ever grace a Zappa band.
Dweezil led this band impeccably, and perhaps most impressively, he has managed to reinvent his guitar style all but fully. Dweezil oozes Frank's twisted take on electric guitar soloing, but he is clearly also a highly individualized player.
The set list was a strong one, encompassing tunes as diverse as early Mothers Of Invention gems "Who Are the Brain Police?" and "The Idiot Bastard Son", mid-period delights like "Pygmy Twylyte" and the set highlight, "Village of the Sun," to an absolutely blazing, "I Am the Slime."
This was authentic Zappa music played by musicians who have earned the right to carry it on.