Zappa Plays Zappa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Zappa Plays Zappa
Zappa Plays Zappa, North Sea Jazz Festival, Ahoy, Rotterdam, 2008.
Zappa Plays Zappa, North Sea Jazz Festival, Ahoy, Rotterdam, 2008.
Background information
Also known asDweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa (2016)
OriginLos Angeles, California, United States
GenresRock, experimental rock, jazz-rock
Years active2006–present
LabelsRazor & Tie
MembersDweezil Zappa
Scheila Gonzalez
Ryan Brown
Kurt Morgan
Adam Minkoff
Kevin Bents
Past membersAaron Arntz
Pete Griffin
Billy Hulting
Jamie Kime
Joe Travers
Ben Thomas
David Luther
Cian Coey
Chris Norton
Zappa Plays Zappa in Aarhus, Denmark, 2015

Zappa Plays Zappa is an American tribute act led by Dweezil Zappa, the eldest son of late American composer and musician Frank Zappa, devoted to performing the music of Frank Zappa.[1][2][3][4]


The band debuted in 2006 with shows in Europe, Canada, and the United States during May and June (the tour was also known as Zappa Plays Zappa: Tour de Frank'). The shows presented a collection of Frank Zappa's rock-oriented compositions from the 1960s to the late 1970s.[5] Apart from Dweezil Zappa on lead guitar, many of the band members previously played with Frank Zappa. Among those, Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, flute, and vocals) was an integral part of the band, while drummer/vocalist Terry Bozzio and guitarist Steve Vai performed as guests in parts of the shows. At several shows the live band played along with audio and video recordings of Frank Zappa himself, notably portions of "Chunga's Revenge", "Dumb All Over", "Cosmik Debris", and "Muffin Man".

After a break, the band played again in the U.S. during the fall of 2006, including a show in New York on October 31. This revived Frank Zappa's tradition of playing Halloween shows in New York. A DVD documenting the 2006 tour was released in early 2008.[6]

In July and August 2007, the band played a North American tour, with a core lineup similar to that of the 2006 band. The band then played in Europe during September and October before returning to the US, starting with another Halloween show in New York. Special guest on the tour was vocalist and guitarist Ray White, a Zappa stalwart performer in the 1970s and early 1980s.[7] They ended the 2007 tour in Australia in early December before doing a handful of shows in Japan in January 2008. Steve Vai returned as a guest on those shows. A brief tour of U.S. and Canadian dates was then scheduled for the Summer of 2008 with the same lineup as the 2007 tour.[8]

At the 51st Grammy Awards in February 2009, Zappa Plays Zappa won Best Rock Instrumental Performance for their performance of the Frank Zappa instrumental classic "Peaches en Regalia".[9]

Frank Zappa's bands underwent many changes of members, and Zappa Plays Zappa has done the same. The first changes came in 2009–2010, starting with the departure of Aaron Arntz from the keyboard chair, followed quickly by the replacement of guest vocalist Ray White with the hiring of full-time singer/multi-instrumentalist Ben Thomas. Shortly thereafter, keyboardist/singer Chris Norton was added to the lineup.

After the first few tours an additional event was added to the touring cycle. A music bootcamp created by Dweezil, aptly named Dweezilla, afforded the band the opportunity to teach students in a totally immersive environment. Dweezilla also created the opportunity for certain alumni to participate in a performance.

In 2012, the band line up changed again. Original core band bassist Pete Griffin was let go. He was quickly replaced by Zappa alumni bassist Scott Thunes, who also used to be in Dweezil's band Z. He stood in while a permanent replacement was found. The next transformation of the band was complete when bassist Kurt Morgan joined.

Just as Frank Zappa's bands changed size year after year, Zappa Plays Zappa once again followed suit, reducing its membership to six rather than eight musicians. Original core band members Jamie Kime and Billy Hulting went on to other projects at that time.

The 2014 Zappa Plays Zappa tour was a tribute to the classic 1974 album Roxy and Elsewhere. ZPZ performed the material from Roxy in its entirety, in the same order as the original album.

The 2015 tour was also a tribute, this time to the album One Size Fits All and like the Roxy tour it celebrates its 40th anniversary. The show starts with a full performance of the album in its entirety, in the original order. The main set includes songs by the original lineup of The Mothers of Invention including "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" and "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?"

Trademark disputes[edit]

In April 2016, Dweezil Zappa announced that he would be changing the name of the band to Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa, in response to a cease-and-desist order by the Zappa Family Trust, which represents Zappa's estate. Following the October 2015 death of Gail Zappa, control of the trust was taken over by his siblings Ahmet and Diva Zappa, with Ahmet handling day-to-day operations. The trust holds a trademark on the name "Zappa Plays Zappa", which Dweezil had already licensed from Gail. Despite this, the Trust ordered Dweezil to cease using the trademark. The Trust also argued that his shows were a "dramatic work", thus ineligible for the blanket compulsory license for live performance venues as specified in section 115 of United States copyright law, and requiring Dweezil to negotiate "grand rights" directly from the trust or be liable for copyright infringement. Ahmet argued that he was not trying to inhibit his ability to tour under his father's name, but wanted to ensure that Zappa Plays Zappa would be "in accordance with the family trust". A lawyer interviewed by The New York Times disagreed with this theory, arguing that the concept of grand rights is intended primarily for works such as stage musicals, and that a concert by a cover band was not a "dramatic work".[10][11][12][13]

A lawyer representing the Trust later told Dweezil that "Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa" infringed on the Trust's trademarks for "Zappa" and "Frank Zappa".[12] In June 2016, Dweezil announced that he would hold a tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of Zappa's first album, Freak Out!. In reference to the dispute, it was titled 50 Years of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants – The Cease and Desist Tour.[14]

The Zappa siblings reconciled in May 2018.[15]


In 2012, ZPZ (consisting of Dweezil and an eight-piece band) released a double live album, F. O. H.—the abbreviation of "front of house", the technical term for the sound as it is mixed and amplified for the audience at a live venue. The tracks were recorded directly in two tracks, and no dubbing took place. Dweezil Zappa explained, though, that Universal Audio software was used to make individual compositions sound as if they were recorded with the equipment that his father used for those compositions.[5]


2020 Touring Group:

  • Dweezil Zappa – lead guitar, vocals (2006–)
  • Scheila Gonzalez – saxophone, flute, keyboards, harmonica, vocals (2006–)
  • Kurt Morgan – bass, vocals (2012–)
  • Ryan Brown – drums, percussion, vocals (2013–)
  • Adam Minkoff – guitar, keyboards, percussion, flute, recorder, mandolin, vocals (2017–)
  • Kevin Bents – keyboards, vocals (2020–)

Former members:

  • Aaron Arntz – keyboards, trumpet, vocals (2006–2009)
  • Pete Griffin – bass (2006–2011)
  • Joe Travers – drums, vocals (2006–2013)
  • Billy Hulting – marimba, mallets, percussions (2006–2013)
  • Jamie Kime – rhythm guitar (2006–2013)
  • Ben Thomas – lead vocals, trumpet, trombone, rhythm guitar (2009–2016)
  • Chris Norton – keyboards, violin, percussion, vocals (2010–2019)
  • Scott Thunes – bass, vocals (2012)
  • Mikki Hommel – vocals (2016)
  • Cian Coey – vocals (2016–2019)
  • David Luther – saxophone, guitar, keyboards, vocals (2016-2017)

Guests on most 2006 shows:

Guest on 2007, 2008 and some 2009 shows:

Guests on some 2010 shows:

Guests on some 2011 shows:

Guest on some 2012 shows:

Guest on some 2015 shows

Guest on some 2017 shows



  1. ^ Planer, Lindsay. Zappa Plays Zappa at AllMusic. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  2. ^ Kantor, Ira (May 13, 2015). "Live Show Reviews: Zappa Plays Zappa, Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA", Elmore Magazine. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  3. ^ Ezell, Bruce (February 3, 2014). "Live Review: Zappa Plays Zappa Gels with the Portland Weird at the Roseland Theater (January 31st, 2014)", Glide Magazine. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  4. ^ Brandow, Barry (April 24, 2015). "Zappa Plays Zappa Concert Review: Glenside, PA", Live Music Daily. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Levy, Frank (July 2012). "Dweezil Zappa". Guitar Player. pp. 42–46.
  6. ^ Zappa Plays Zappa > Videos,, archived from the original on July 7, 2007, retrieved August 13, 2007
  7. ^ Zappa Plays Zappa > The Players,, archived from the original on April 29, 2007, retrieved May 5, 2007
  8. ^ Zappa Plays Zappa > Tour Dates,, archived from the original on August 5, 2007, retrieved August 13, 2007
  9. ^ The 51st Annual Grammy Awards Winners List,, February 9, 2009, retrieved October 22, 2015
  10. ^ "Zappa Threatens Zappa Over Zappa Plays Zappa". Techdirt. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  11. ^ "'Zappa Plays Zappa' Pits Zappa vs. Zappa". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  12. ^ a b Sisario, Ben (17 June 2016). "A Twist in the Zappa vs. Zappa Spat". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  13. ^ "It's brother and sister against brother and sister in bitter fight over control of Frank Zappa's legacy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  14. ^ Grant, Sarah (June 22, 2016). "Dweezil Zappa on Fight for Family Name, Reviving 'Freak Out!'". Rolling Stone.
  15. ^ O'Brien, Andrew (May 17, 2018). "Dweezil Zappa Announces Reconciliation with His Siblings & Zappa Family Trust After Years-Long Feud". Live For Live Music. Retrieved July 26, 2018.

External links[edit]