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RIP Rozz Zamorano

Fondue Monks, with Denver Courtney (left) and the late Rozz Zamorano, have been a mainstay of the Houston music scene for almost 25 years.
Courtesy of Greg Davis

Miles-Tones

Houston's music community is still reeling after bassist Rozzano Zamorano was found dead in his Montrose apartment late in the evening of Friday, February 21. Friends say Zamorano failed to show up for a gig with Vince Converse that night at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, leading police officers to break down his door and discover him unconscious in his bed. Zamorano had just celebrated his 44th birthday the previous weekend at a gig with his band, the Fondue Monks, also at Dan Electro's.

"Rozz to not show up at a gig — that never happened," says Fondue Monks singer Denver Courtney, who had been Zamorano's bandmate since the group formed in 1991. "I've been onstage with Rozz when he had a 103-degree fever and was puking off the back of the stage."

After that birthday gig, Courtney says, he and Zamorano had lunch the following Monday, during which they talked about making another Fondue Monks record; it would have been the R&B/funk-rock band's first new release in a decade. But Courtney says that was the last time he saw Zamorano, whose death cuts straight to the quick of an old-growth ring of the Houston music scene.

After Courtney saw Zamorano, he says he thinks the bassist used Facebook once or twice the next day, and that was it. "Musicians can kind of disappear for a couple of days and nobody really pays attention," the singer notes, so no one thought to look for Zamorano until he missed a gig.

When that happened, Courtney says, Zamorano's father and brother Ronnie (the Fondue Monks' drummer) drove over to the bassist's apartment and saw his car in the parking lot, at which point they called police. Although an autopsy has not yet been peformed, friends say they think his death may be a result of Zamorano's severe sleep apnea, which was also exacerbated by his weight.

"He needed to have surgery, but he needed to lose a bunch of weight to have it," says Warehouse Live talent buyer Jason Price, who says he met Zamorano one open-mike night at Instant Karma in 1999. Price often booked Zamorano's projects as opening acts, such as his eponymous jazz-fusion trio before the Rebirth Brass Band at Warehouse Live, the night before the Dan Electro's birthday gig. The show wound up selling out on walk-up sales, Price says.

"When I called and told him, 'Your trio can play,' he was beside himself just because he knew it would be a good opportunity," Price recounts.

A mountain of a man whose size was matched by his gigantic talent on the bass guitar, Rozzano Zamorano was a native of Corpus Christi but attended Spring Branch Elementary School with Denver Courtney, years before they reconnected and started the Fondue Monks.

"The first time I ever met Rozz was on the playground, and he was challenging anybody to a footrace," says his future bandmate. "And to see Rozz back then, he was just this little-bitty guy, but he never backed down from anything."

Zamorano never had much formal music education, friends say, but by his early teens had met up with Houston's famous Zenteno family. According to Jason Price, he used to lie about his age to play gigs with the family band, as late vocalist Norma Zenteno (who passed away in February 2013) took Zamorano under her wing.

"The thing that gets me, by the time they found him, it was a day shy of a year that Norma had passed," Price says. "He was so close to her — he was broken last year. She was kind of a mentor to him growing up."

"Over the past year, when I was talking to him, he would say, 'You know, I miss Norma," adds Denver Courtney. "There was a real deep connection."

Zamorano's other big role model was Jaco Pastorious, the jazz-fusion bassist once as well known for his haughty attitude (and tragic end) as his prodigious talents. But Zamorano's similarities to the late Pastorious — he won at least two Houston Press Music Awards for Best Bassist, and was a perennial nominee — extended only as far as his confidence in his own abilities as a bassist, Courtney argues.

"He had an ego, but not a stuck-up ego," the singer says. "It was just when you know something that good and you play something that well, you're confident. And confidence is everything."

Jason Price is planning a memorial that will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. on March 15 at Warehouse Live, and Zamorano's trio gig at MKT bar this Thursday (March 6) has been turned into a benefit for the family. The bassist's father, Roland Zamorano, says he has received hundreds of messages from people from coast to coast, expressing their ­condolences.

"He was a very compassionate person," says the elder Zamorano. "He always put other people before himself, and he always mentored people. He always had a good word of encouragement for everyone. He didn't have that jealousy thing with other artists. He was a humble guy that let his art talk for him."
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Inquiring Minds

Flip Your Wig
Now leader of the Jicks, ex-Pavement singer Stephen Malkmus is no slacker.

Neph Basedow

For the guy widely known for putting "slacker-rock" on the musical map, former Pavement front man Stephen Malkmus sure stays busy. His current band, The Jicks — which formed in 2000, immediately after Pavement's demise — has now released more albums than its predecessor, including their sixth, this year's Wig Out at Jagbags.

Whereas relations among Pavement members grew static with time, the Jicks function on an opposite spectrum. Their shows are laid-back, and the members seem to genuinely enjoy one another.

Malkmus doesn't overthink why the Jicks prevail, nor why Pavement didn't. Mainly, he credits their functionality with increased maturity and a relaxed approach.

"We're older now," he notes during a recent phone call. "We have more perspective.

"With Pavement," he continues, "we tried really hard, we traveled a lot, we pushed our agenda on people — and it got really exhausting. It wasn't fun."

"We don't keep our foot on the gas pedal so hard," he says of the Jicks. "We keep it fun, and we keep the touring schedule light, to promote longevity. You burn out in a band if you go too hard."

Now 47, Malkmus still seems like his '90s-era self. He's blasé yet charming, and coolly confident. Now, however, he acknowledges the changes that have materialized over the years.

"[New track] 'Rumble at the Rainbo' is about a kind of nostalgia for music — even though the song's about punkers instead of us aging indie-rockers," he laughs. "But it's all the same. Eventually, the signifiers become settled and the wrinkles come — and that's okay. It's part of life."

The slack-rock innovator is, in reality, quite insightful.

Though Malkmus has never been afraid of picking battles with his lyrics ("Range Life," anyone?), a particularly combative Jagbags track has our attention.

"You have to address 'Houston Hades' when I'm playing a Houston show," he laughs.

Malkmus casts Houston in some questionable light during the track in question, singing: "Houston's Hades for Houston ladies...This town, so impressive from a distance / Listen boy, I'm talking to you."

"First of all," he begins, "the ladies of Houston shouldn't feel bad, because I'm not speaking to them," he says with a hopeful laugh. "So, half the audience should be on my side. That leaves the men of Houston to have to answer to me — a person who's barely ever been there, who's kind of, like, talking shit."

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks play Fitzgerald's Friday, March 7, with Purling Hiss. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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Ask Willie D

Mom's Stepping Out
A reader searches for a delicate way to tell his dad about his mother's suspected cheating.

Dear Willie D:

My mom wrecked her car, and since then she has been alternating between riding to work with me and a male coworker. The other night I took her to work and went in for a few minutes. When I returned to the parking garage, I realized that I didn't have money to pay for parking because I had left my wallet at home. So I went back to ask my mom to pay for the ticket. When I reached her department, I saw her coworker friend pop her on the butt, and she just smiled.

I pretended not to see what happened, and just asked for the money and left. I hate that my mom spends so much time with that slimeball. He also plays poker with my dad, who is totally in the dark on all of this, in part because the guy is married. I know my mom is having an affair and I want to tell my dad, because they are making a good man look like a fool.

I've always thought the world of my mom, but now I'm ashamed of her because it's women like her who give faithful women like myself a bad image. What do you think I should do?

Wanting to Tell:

Talk to your mom and tell her what you saw. Tell her how she hurt you, and ask for an explanation. It will be awkward and painful, but it will serve her notice that her actions are unacceptable.

While a pop on the butt is hardly evidence of an affair, it is an indication that something sexual could be going on, or at least that the potential is there. I know you love your dad, but any confessions about your mother's inappropriate behavior with another man should come from her, not you.

 

Whether she decides to come clean or not really doesn't matter, because what's done in the dark will come to light.

Ask Willie D appears Thursdays on Rocks Off.


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