Sunday Cinema | Frank Zappa Philadelphia Soundcheck 1988

In 1988 Frank Zappa embarked on what turned out to be his last tour with a rock/jazz band before his death in 1993. Zappa put together a 12-piece band for the 1988 tour that included Ike Willis (rhythm guitar/vocals), Mike Keneally (stunt guitar/keyboards/vocals), Robert Martin (keyboards/Synclavier/ vocals), Ed Mann (percussion/Synclavier/vocals), Scott Thunes (bass/mini-moog), Chad Wackerman (drums/electronic percussion), Walt Fowler (trumpet/flugelhorn/Synclavier), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Paul Carman (alto/soprano sax), Albert Wing (tenor sax) and Kurt McGettrick (baritone sax). The tour came to an early conclusion after 81 shows in four months due to interpersonal issues between some of the musicians in the band. For today's Sunday Cinema post we look at recently-surfaced (on YouTube) video of Frank leading the band through a soundcheck/rehearsal in Philadelphia on March 14, 1988.

Frank was known for his intense work ethic and as a perfectionist. We see many displays of these attributes in the footage below. The clip starts with a run through of "Sofa" that doesn't last very long. Zappa realizes something's off in the melody and we watch as the band figures it out. Then, the group works on "The Girl From Ipanema" (with bassist Scott Thunes wearing a Jimmy Baker mask) and "Zoot Allures." There's a bit of downtime in the 20-minute clip, but if you're a Zappa fan you'll appreciate the opportunity to see the master at work:

There's another, much longer clip from the Philadelphia soundcheck/rehearsal that also turned up on YouTube last week. The second clip begins with a different angle of the "Sofa" and "Girl From Ipanema" from the first clip and continues with Frank setting up the evening's guitar loops and playing his synclavier. The money shot comes around the 39-minute mark when Zappa tests out the loops he made by tearing into his guitar for an off-the-cuff solo. At age 48 Frank could still shred with the best of 'em. Again, we warn this isn't "all killer, no filler" footage. There's some "killer" and plenty of "filler."

[Published on: 3/23/14]

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