Is This Phase Two of Zappa Plays Zappa?

There’s something unmistakably Frank-like about the April 1st blog post from Dweezil Zappa on the Zappa Plays Zappa website. It details how longtime collaborator Ray White, as integral a part of the Zappa sound as any band member that ever worked with Frank, unceremoniously left ZPZ – via email, with no advance notice, as the band prepared for next week’s world tour launch.

The previous post in the blog, dated March 26th, addresses the departure of keyboardist Aaron Arntz – but only after Dweezil updates the status of live downloads and points out how busy he is preparing for the tour.

While losing and replacing band members is as much a part of the Zappa legacy as his mustache and music, I wonder how the patriarch would have handled losing not one, but two band members in a week while facing a lengthy world-crossing tour. Presumably, he would have dealt with it much like his son has – with more than a hint of flippancy.

In the blog, Dweezil writes that “there has always been a plan to perform solely as the core band.” Right. It’s all been part of the master plan, these last 3 years of gigging and rehearsing in the constant presence of his father’s former band mates. The upcoming 37-show tour of Japan, Australia and Europe with White? A means to an eventual and inevitable end, if you believe Dweezil.

Frank may be dead, but “ZAPPA” is alive and well. Dweezil has one of the most ludicrously talented bands in the universe at his disposal. There seems to be plenty of animosity among the alumni, including White and Napoleon Murphy Brock, who hasn’t performed with the band since 2006. It’s the 1970s all over again – unearthly talent, inimitable music, and the hiss of contempt in the background of it all.

No one outside of the organization knows the exact reasons why White and Arntz left. In Arntz’s case, it could have been almost anything. It’s certainly no stretch to believe that the young, talented keyboard and trumpet player left to pursue other musical endeavors.

In the case of White, however, the circumstances are almost certainly personal. It’s not as if the guitarist/vocalist has other projects on the horizon, and the manner in which he severed ties with the band doesn’t exactly conjure images of friendliness.

If Dweezil truly meant for ZPZ to eventually become an entity of its own, free of perpetual “special guests” like White and Brock, he’s got his wish. Losing Arntz is unfortunate, as it truly hinders the band in a musical sense, but the departure of White puts a wholly new perspective on their future. Now begins the unenviable task of finding someone who can sing the irreplaceable vocal parts that Brock and White provided for the last 3 years.

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