My first meeting with the music of Frank Zappa, was in the early teenage. My boyish room was full of Sweet-posters and I painted all my clothes with silver spray.
I could stand for hours in front of the mirror, "singing" along with Brian Connolly. I made a fake guitar in plywood and read magazines; Go and Tiffany.
Sometimes a strange man showed up in those papers. He wore the same kind of ugly clothes as the Bay City Rollers (And those guys where really ugly). That man was NOTHING compared with Brian, Andy, Steve or Mick. Being a "chewing gum" boy, I had no empathy for men in ugly shirts with flowers on or gray cardigans.
But, the Sweet-era died. I started to play the guitar and one day, without really understand what happened, I came home with "Zappa In New York" (I think it was the man in the record store that practiced his talent for advertisement).
I must admit that I understood NOTHING, except that there was some instrument called Marimba, and another instrument called Saxophone (My idols at that moment where Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin!).
The "guitar hero" records are now gone, but my collection of Frank Zappa records has steadily grown over the years. Well, I think it was the music of Stravinsky, Carla Bley and Anthony Braxton that finally made me find a way to Frank Zappa. They kind of live in the same room.
"Rite of Springs, Rock´n Roll, Anarchy and Total Discipline" made me finally understand what he was doing. Now I agree with the choir: "He's a genius!"
One dark night at Nefertiti (the jazz club in Gothenburg) the trombone player Niklas Rydh came up to me and asked about my opinion about a Frank Zappa project for the Bohuslän Big Band. I told him my opinion: "It's totally impossible, no one can make his music justice". But both Niklas and me kept the idea in mind for a long time. Some months later he asked me again, and I thought: What the fuck, someone HAS to do it!
That was the beginning of a hard time for me. I had so much respect for Mr. Zappa´s work that I hesitated on every single note I heard when I started to transcribe his music. After a while I got over the nightmares and enormous transcriptions and just tried to look at the music as just songs.
Of course, there was a few really hard ones to get on paper ("Sinister Footwear" and "Inca Roads" for example).
Now I am glad Niklas asked me. Transcribing, arranging, playing and rehearsing with Bohuslän Big band have been the funniest thing I've ever done.
There has been some magic nights at Nefertiti with the project.
Imagine, standing there, surrounded by the powerful sound of a Big Band, playing the guitar and listening to Frank Zappa´s music. These nights there has been no border or difference between musicians and audience. Just a big big happiness and love for what one man has given us.
(What if I had seen myself when I stood there, many years ago, in front of the mirror, playing the music of this "ugly" dressed man. I had probably hated myself. Being older and curious is not so bad, is it?)
By Patrik Ehrnborg
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