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New Century, Same Genius: Ornette Coleman at JVC

It’s a testament to the strength and lasting influence of Frank Zappa that, while he died in 1992-at the far too-young age of 52-he left behind such a rich body of work that the Zappa legacy continues onward and upward. On some level, intrigue in the World of Zappa has increased, not only through the lingering nostalgic interests of his global fan base but also through the curiosity of young listeners. Imagine the gift of discovering Zappa’s music, so much more elaborate and sophisticated than any other “rock” music before, during or after him. The thrill increases exponentially when his complex tunes are experienced live.

Oddly enough, it took the band known as the Grande Mothers a few years to make their official debut in Zappa’s hometown of Los Angeles, with a special Zappa-meets-Stravinsky concert at the new experimental music nucleus of the REDCAT theater (downstairs from the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A.). The band is centered around charter members of Zappa’s Mothers of Invention band–keyboardist Don Preston, one-of-a-kind vocalist (and saxophonist/flutist) Napoleon Murphy Brock and bassist Roy Estrada-and fleshed out by the anchoring force of Christopher Garcia on drums, and spidery-fingered new kid Miroslav Tadic on guitar. He soared this night, on his first gig with the group. (Tadic’s job description, re: the concert program, is playing “stunt guitar, snake guitar, loud guitar”).

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