Cullen Theater, Wortham Center
Saturday, September 24
This performance was entitled "The Dangerous Kitchen: The Music of Frank Zappa," and it filled that bill admirably, featuring 21 selections spanning 25 years of the iconoclastic composer's work. Before an audience split between buttoned-down Society for the Performing Arts subscribers and longhaired freaks, conductor Walter Boudreau led his 11-piece ACREQ ensemble through a program that ranged from 1967's "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" to 1985's "Alien Orifice." In the end, you had to walk away impressed with the breadth of Zappa's work and the virtuosity of the Canadian players' re-enactment. I also walked away with the feeling that maybe the tribute steered a bit too close to the polite.
After a taped introductory segment, Boudreau took the podium wearing the sort of jeans/dinner jacket/sneakers getup that marks geeky music students the world over, setting the stage for an awestruck recital that, for all its accomplishment in conveying Zappa's genre-mixing range, rarely tapped into the over-the-top danger of Zappa at his most provocative. After intermission, soprano soloist Pauline Vaillancourt performed "The Dangerous Kitchen," earning the best audience response of the night. But with the further exception of "Teenage Prostitute" (lots of squirming daddies), audience attitude was merely respectful. And maybe that's good, since Zappa always did have an easier time earning the respect of his rock fans than he did the respect of patrons of the "serious" music he advanced in a hundred subtle ways.
-- Brad Tyer
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Sultans of Soul
Gina's Inn, 3218 Cline
Unless you're from the Fifth Ward, you'll play hell getting to Gina's without a Key Map. But once you find this neighborhood institution, you're in for a treat. The Sultans of Soul kick off around 5 p.m. every Sunday, with Jerald Grey and Paul Chevialer leading the band through a set that sounds so sophisticated and polished that it must be jazz, so unrehearsed and honest that it must be blues. Grey has been blowing tenor sax around town for years with a long list of talented musicians, and Chevialer is simply one of the best fusion guitarists you've never heard of.
The hypnotic, jazzy effects these two produce gradually drift into the background when Grey passes his mike to drummer George Weaver, whose vocals highlight deliciously funky interpretations of soul standards. With his kit positioned where he can keep an eye on the TV over the bar, Weaver sometimes picks his selections to reflect breaking stories, as in, "We're gonna do the blues for a while, 'cause the Oilers are getting they asses kicked!" No selection surprises the delightfully aloof Larry Guy on five-string bass. Vocalists vary: balladeer Eugene Moody sometimes warms up here before heading over to El Nedo in Third Ward, and Little Buck is one of those cats who will make you wonder, Why is he singing in a place that's so hard to find?, until you realize that he's just doing what he does.
-- Jim Sherman