Zappa Plays Zappa

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Zappa Plays Zappa
ZPZ Rotterdam.jpg
Zappa Plays Zappa, North Sea Jazz Festival, Ahoy, Rotterdam, 2008.
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Rock, experimental rock, jazz-rock
Years active 2006–present
Labels Razor & Tie
Members Dweezil Zappa
Scheila Gonzalez
Ryan Brown
Ben Thomas
Chris Norton
Kurt Morgan
Past members Aaron Arntz
Pete Griffin
Billy Hulting
Jamie Kime
Joe Travers
Zappa Plays Zappa in Aarhus, Denmark (2015)
Photo Hreinn Gudlaugsson

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.


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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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".[5]

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. A notable and disappointing performance by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman was marred by their lack of preparation and firm reliance on an iPad teleprompter, completely dispelling all rumors that a full tour with them as guests would take place.

After more evolution in 2012, the band landscape 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 is a tribute to the classic 1974 album Roxy and Elsewhere. ZPZ performs the material from Roxy in its entirety, in the same order as the original album.


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.[1]



  • Dweezil Zappa - lead guitar, vocals
  • Scheila Gonzalez - saxophone, flute, keyboards, harmonica, vocals
  • Ryan Brown - drums, percussion, vocals
  • Ben Thomas - lead vocals, trumpet, trombone, rhythm guitar
  • Chris Norton - keyboards, violin, vocals
  • Kurt Morgan - bass, vocals

Former members:

  • Aaron Arntz - trumpet, keyboards, vocals
  • Pete Griffin - bass
  • Billy Hulting - marimba, mallets, percussions
  • Jamie Kime - rhythm guitar
  • Joe Travers - drums, vocals

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:


  1. ^ a b Levy, Frank (July 2012). "Dweezil Zappa". Guitar Player. pp. 42–46. 
  2. ^ Zappa Plays Zappa > Videos,, retrieved August 13, 2007 
  3. ^ Zappa Plays Zappa > The Players,, retrieved May 5, 2007 
  4. ^ Zappa Plays Zappa > Tour Dates,, retrieved August 13, 2007 
  5. ^ The 51st Annual Grammy Awards Winners List,, February 9, 2009, retrieved October 22, 2015 

External links[edit]