The world's zaniest big band celebrates the Holiday with their skilled but wacky arrangements, re-forming the music of Zappa, Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter....with comic diversions, because they can't help it!.
This eighteen-piece ensemble - five woodwind players, four trumpeters, three trombonists, two keyboardists, guitar, violin, bass, drums, and vocalists throughout - has been performing jazz arrangements of Zappa’s music regularly since 1994. But what started out as faithfully antic versions of the composer’s complex, fiendishly clever music has expanded to reflect Palermo’s passion for Todd Rundgren, British psychedelia and progressive rock.
This often entails head-spinning in-jokes, such as performing Traffic’s 1971 tune “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” over Zappa’s bass line for his composition “Chunga’s Revenge.”
The Ed Palermo Big Band performs monthly at the Iridium in Manhattan and regularly at The Falcon in Marlboro, NY, where Palermo often scripts elaborate thematic evenings. At one such event, vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock—a longtime Zappa vocalist who frequently works with Palermo—sang the line “I’m never getting married” (from Jimmy Webb’s “The Worst That Could Happen”) as Palermo stumbled onstage in prison stripes for an evening dedicated to his 34th wedding anniversary.
Most of Palermo’s humor, however, lies in the music’s richly textured citations and juxtapositions. The scores themselves are funny.
“I wouldn’t call my thing a comedy show,” he said, “but it’s got a lot of humor in it. I often think that jazz takes itself way too seriously. Maybe that makes my thing stand out a little more.”