Jazz From Hell

Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of his death (4th December 2003), this new three-part Jazz File series celebrates and explores the relationship between jazz and the music of Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa is usually thought of first and foremost as a rock musician and band leader, albeit a pretty unusual one! Zappa said he didn't like jazz; he complained of its endless "noodling" and famously said that "jazz is not dead, it just smells funny!". However, much of his music shows a jazz influence, his recorded work features some of the most dazzling improvisers of their time (Ian Underwood, Sugar Cane Harris, George Duke, Bruce Fowler, Mike Brecker etc) - not to mention the virtuosic guitar playing of Frank himself, and his music has in turn influenced contemporary jazz. In this series journalist Charles Shaar Murray (an acknowledged expert on Zappa, and regular presenter of Jazz File) is joined by a host of the bandleader's ex sidemen to take an entertaining look at Zappa and jazz. The following Zappa alumni have been interviewed exclusively for this series: Arthur Barrow, Adrian Belew, Mike Brecker, George Duke, Bruce Fowler, Ralph Humphrey, Tommy Mars, Patrick O'Hearn and Don Preston. Plus there will be archive recordings of Zappa himself.


01Jazz Is Not Dead, It Just Smells Funny!20040529
01Jazz Is Not Dead, It Just Smells Funny!20040529
02Make A Jazz Noise Here20040605

This second programme focuses on the role Zappa's star sidemen played in creating his unique music. As a bandleader Zappa was like Ellington in the way he assembled groups of virtuoso musicians and then wrote compositions for them to play which would highlight their individual strengths. He always wrote pieces which allowed his sidemen to shine.

03 LASTAir Sculpture20040612

The final programme in the series considers Zappa himself as an improviser. Arguably more than any other guitarist Zappa changed and developed over time. As an soloist, he was always stretching himself; in live performance, each extended solo was an opportunity to create something new.