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Ed Palermo Big Band: The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren (Cuneiform)

Review of album inspired by the music of Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren

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Cover of Ed Palermo Big Band album The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren
Cover of Ed Palermo Big Band album The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren

Even in jazz, the importance of interpretative art is still questioned. The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren is Exhibit A—OK, Z—for the defense. Even as guitarist/saxophonist/bandleader Ed Palermo contrasts Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren in his liner notes, describing the opposite roles of the two rock polymaths, he and his eccentric big band brilliantly reconcile their oeuvres.

It would be a mistake to suggest that Palermo renders them indistinguishable. For one, he concentrates lyrical arrangements on Rundgren’s side: seven, to Zappa’s two. For another, instrumental or no, Zappa’s ruthless complexity is an easy contrast to Rundgren’s (admittedly ambitious) tunesmithery. Palermo may stack Rundgren’s “Influenza” with woodwind densities (and baritonist Barbara Cifelli’s killer lead), call-and-response brass and a fiendish Katie Jacoby violin solo, but it remains immediate and ingratiating. Nor does layering sunny doo-wop vocals onto the tendrils of Zappa’s “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)” simplify them.

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