For the last couple of decades, I have been a great admirer of (the music of) Frank Zappa. Not so much only an admirer, but a follower, a disciple even. Ever since the moment I saw (snippets of) the 1984 New York concert on the BBC, broadcasted in the mere shadow of his passing, my life changed. All I was into at that time. changed. They say there are only several events in ones life, that mark beginnings of change. That make one grow and change paths. For me, that was such a moment.
Since that day, I have been a Zappa nut. I didn’t decide to become one, I just turned into one. From that one moment to another. And that fills me with joy, each and everyday.
Right after seeing that concert, I went to the library everyday, to rent Zappa CD’s and copy them to cassette tapes and during the months, after I had acquired pretty much all the local library had to offer, I was listening to Zappa, wherever I went.
I came across a lot music I at the time didn’t understand so well, yet. But the seed was planted and it was growing eagerly. Before I even realised, I was a Zappa-head. And so thankful I am, that until today, I still am. My life has changed since seeing that first encounter and so much has happened, and still is, with all things Zappa at my side.
As a pianist, for many years I never even tried to play his music on piano. I mean, wasn’t that the job of all those out-of-this-world musicians? How could I even dare to attempt and play his music? Around 2008, I finally dared to arrange and play a couple of his compositions on my piano. There was Son of Mr. Green Genes and Blessed Relief (as transcribed in the RealBook), Let’s Make The Water Turn Black and How Could I Be Such A Fool?
In 2014, I was asked to join the Zappa tribute band Zappatika, who toured with Ike Willis. During the time I was in that band, I had the incredible honour to meet perform on stage with people like Ike Willis, Denny Walley, Craig ‘Twister’ Steward, Ed Mann and Jeff Hollie.
I met all these great musicians, like Dweezil, Ray White, Mike Keneally, Robert ‘Bobby’ Martin, Tom Fowler, Steve Vai …
One could say that my dream for over 20 years had come true. And, well, I agree. For it feels like that, each and every day. I can never express how grateful I am for all that this has brought me. So what I do, is to keep playing and sharing his music. With my students, my friends and to everyone who has a moment to listen.
I am writing this letter to you, not so much to tell you about me and my petty musical endeavours, but to let you know that in all those years that I have been the admirer of Zappa I am, I have been simply mesmerized by all that you have done, while (and after) you played with him. Your talent and skill are amazing and your devotion to his musis, when I see videos of you talking about your time with him, melt my heart. From what I have heard and seen, you are second to none. An incredible musician, percussionist, pianist and I – although I know this letter will probably never meet your eyes – want to thank you for all the beautiful things you have done. If, for whatever strange twist of fate, you ever read this, please allow me to thank you for everything. 💛
All the above said, you might be able to imagine the thrill when I was asked if my solo piano rendition of Oh no, could be used in the new Zappa movie. I was, and still am, esctatic knowing that it was actually used in the movie.
When I first saw the movie, and heard the notes emerging from my grand piano, while you were talking about the song, all of this came full-circle. No one can imagine how excited, honoured and grateful I felt (and feel). My little arrangement of Oh no. Not only featured in the movie, but YOU talking about it. Hearing my piano playing, while looking at you is another one of those moment that I will not only never forget, but that has already changed my life. As it did, after watching the 1984 concert.
Thank you, Ruth. For all things beautiful. I wish you all the best and hope that this message (if it ever reaches you) meets you in good spirits and health.
I will now (it’s 10pm here in The Netherlands), proceed in recording a video of me playing Treacherous Cretins. For you. Secretly hoping that one day, you might actually see and hear it.