Zappa U Screening / UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra
Volcano Art Center, Volcano
January 14, 2018
I first heard about the UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra’s annual Frank Zappa tributes in 2015 when I was working at KNKR-FM in Hawi. I just played a long concert version of “Black Napkins” when a fellow DJ called in and said, “Hey, have you heard about the Zappa concert they do in Hilo every year?” My wife and I had recently moved to the Big Island from the San Francisco Bay Area, so the thought of annual Zappa shows really turned my head around.
I attended their third year of tributes, and was completely blown away. Professor Trever Veilleux not only assembled a competent group of talented musicians to perform a collection of the late guitarist’s complex compositions, he coached them through weekly classes at the University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus.
In early 2016, I got the idea to make a documentary that would focus on the student’s journey from classroom to concert hall. I began interviewing the students, and soon discovered that there were other Zappa connections here on the Big island. For example, Cheryl “Quack” Moore, former Saturday Night Live Music Director, had been involved with a previous Veilleux concert, and knew Zappa from the times he appeared on SNL. During the filming of my documentary, sax legend Lou Marini attended one of Veilleux’s classes. Marini appeared on several Frank Zappa albums, and was a valuable resource for the students to draw on. A third Zappa connection was photographer Chiu “Ray” Leong, who shot the cover for the seminal Mothers of Invention record “Freak Out!,” and now a Big Island resident too. I was thrilled to have all three of these people appear in my film Zappa U.
After filming the 2016 tribute concerts, I was then tasked with licensing the Zappa music in the movie. Thankfully the Zappa Family Trust loved the film, and granted me a license. Since posting it on the internet, Zappa U received positive comments including this one from Hawaii Tribune-Herald entertainment reporter John Burnett.
When you think of music in Hawaii, perhaps you think of ukuleles, steel guitars or maybe slack-key guitar. All apply, but here’s something that’ll take your musical assumptions and turn them on their head, courtesy of Trever Veilleux and the UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra and rockumentarian Steven Roby. It’s well worth the hour-plus investment of your time, especially if you love or are curious about Frank Zappa and his music, and how a group of college musicians in the Pacific are becoming better by challenging themselves.
Veilleux has continued keeping Zappa’s legacy alive, and in 2017 was joined on stage by Dweezil Zappa, Frank’s guitar playing son. Also on last year’s bill was lead singer Ike Willis who appeared on numerous classic Zappa recordings.
I wanted to do a public screening of my film on the Big island, and the Volcano Art Center graciously said yes. In fact, they expanded the event into a mini-concert benefit that featured a slimmed down version (14 musicians) of the UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra.
Around 50 Zappa fans crammed into the small room where the screening and performance took place. For the next 40 minutes, the UHHJO did a magnificent job interpreting songs from the Zappa catalog. And… they did it in a dark side of the room with their sheet music barely visible. Now that was a challenge!
During our Q&A, Veilleux announced that the band would like to perform at the annual Zappanale Festival (see http://www.zappanale.de/en/), and were accepting donations to make that happen.
I wish the UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra continued success, and am looking forward to their upcoming show in May at the UH Hilo Performance Center.
Watch The UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra perform “Black Napkins”
To read a review of the 2017 UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra Meets Dweezil concert, visit: https://bigislandmusic.net/dweezil-zappa-plays-uh-hilo/
To learn more about the UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra and make a donation, visit: https://hilojazz.com
To view the Zappa U documentary on YouTube, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkAXCoUKaXQ
Noam Akiba-Hajim – Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Vocals
Joshua Benevides – Alto Saxophone
Adrian Jones – Baritone Saxophone
Mayumi Long – Vocals
Payton Meyer – Tenor Saxophone
Madalyn Munoz – Keyboards
Lindsey Rohlf – Bass
Nick Rosenberg – Marimba, Vibraphone
Iris Seaton – Keyboards, Mallets
Elizabeth Sekona – Electric Violin
Heather Sexton – Alto Saxophone
Josh Timmons – Vocals, Trumpet
Zachary Var – Drums
Katie Van Dyk – Flute
Roger Winter – Guitar
Amy Young – Trumpet
Trever Veilleux- Conductor
Set List: | Peaches en Regalia | Montana| Sofa | I’m The Slime/ Pound For A Brown On The Bus | Black Napkins | Willie The Pimp