Harmonia Meets Zappa

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It's too bad that Frank Zappa didn't live to hear this recording of his works by Harmonia, a talented trio of Italians. This group has Classical roots but is open to importing touches from several genres. Utilizing overdubs of their respective instruments and an occasional guest as well, Harmonia will entertain the most knowledgeable Zappa fans as they explore new dimensions within his challenging compositions. "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" is a mix of Damiano Puliti's overdubbed cellos (one pizzacato and one arco) and multiple clarinets by Orio Odori in a swinging arrangement. A dramatic take of "Peaches En Regalia" features superb piano by Alessandra Garosi and a few humorous passages added to the theme by the group, especially the wild finale. Garosi tackles "What's New in Baltimore?" unaccompanied, inserting some original lines and some tongue-in-cheek barroom piano during its finale. The trio adds an intriguing introduction to "Son of Mr. Green Genes," which is eventually fleshed out with a sampled guitar solo. "Little Beige Sambo" was written and recorded by Zappa on the synclavier, Harmonia's version relies on programming as well, though it is quite different from the composer's version. But it is the stunning overhaul of Zappa's "Waka Jawaka" that stands out as Harmonia's greatest achievement. This once intense uptempo piece has been slowed considerably to show off lyrical interplay between the overdubbed clarinets and cellos, while Garosi's piano adds a solo finale. A Baroque flavored reprise of "What's New in Baltimore?" is an appropriate conclusion. Harmonia also plays a number of original works that fit in well with the Zappa material. This highly recommended CD ranks along side Ensemble Modern's interpretations of the late composer's music, though Harmonia didn't have the benefit of rehearsing with Zappa as Ensemble Modern did.

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