Far more than a simple cover band, Project/Object is a focused interpreter of the catalog of the late Frank Zappa (1940-1993), the iconoclastic rock star and composer. Zappa himself practiced what he called "conceptual continuity," in which a series of themes (spoken and musical) turned up in his music over the course of his career. He titled this undertaking "Project/Object."
Project/Object was founded in the early '90s after the annual birthday tribute to Zappa held in the basement of guitarist Andre Cholmondeley. The group of talented New York-based musicians was formed in order to continue the legacy of who they consider to be one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Zappa's music was, more often than not, extremely complex, which is what makes Project/Object's work all the more challenging. While they limit themselves to playing Zappa's material, the limit is a broad one. Through his nearly 30-year career, Zappa released dozens of albums and was a prolific writer.
Like Zappa's shows, especially on his later tours (as documented on his The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life album), Project/Object's focus has always been on their arrangement of the material: arranging the songs in new ways, creating spontaneous interludes with references to current events slipped in, and featuring long passages of guitar-based improvisation. They have also been known, from time to time, to cover entire Zappa albums, including Joe's Garage and One Size Fits All.
A typical show, recorded the week of the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2000, is featured on their debut release, Absolutely Free, and is peppered with references to George W. Bush. The album also features occasional Project/Object member Ike Willis on guitar and vocals. Willis was one of the longest-standing members of Zappa's perpetually overturning, touring, and recording band -- working with Zappa on and off from 1979 until Zappa's death from prostate cancer in December 1993. Many other ex-Zappa sidemen have also made appearances with the band, including "stunt guitarist" Mike Keneally and Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black.
Though Project/Object tours constantly, many of its musicians also have regular gigs with other N.Y.C.-based ensembles. Bassist Rick Bartow is in LOVETESTER. Keyboardist Jordan Shapiro is in Citigrass and has appeared on albums by Soulfarm. Guitarist and frontman Andre Cholmondeley plays in the experimental JFK's LSD UFO.