Ed Palermo may have gained an international following with his ingenious orchestral arrangements of Frank Zappa tunes, but he’s hardly a one-trick pony. Earlier in the year, the saxophonist released an uproarious double album The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 1 & 2, a project celebrating an expansive roster of songs by successive waves of British invaders, from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jeff Beck to King Crimson, Traffic, and Jethro Tull.
With his new big band project, slated for release on Cuneiform Records on October 6, 2017, Palermo is back on his home turf, but the landscape feels strange and uncanny. He’s reclaiming the Zappa songbook, filtering Frank through the emotionally charged lens of the polymathic musical wizard Todd Rundgren in a wild and wooly transmogrification, The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren. Working with the same stellar cast of players, Palermo somehow captures the essence of these iconoclastic masters, making Zappa Zappier and Todd more Rundgrenian. He sees the Zappa and Rundgren as embodying a ying and yang approach to life that played an essential role in helping him navigate the minefields of teenage angst in the 1960s.
“For most of my high school days my favorite musicians were Zappa and Todd Rundgren,” Palermo says. “Rundgren had his songs about self-pity, which were exactly what I needed back then. I’d go out with a girl and whatever party I brought her to she’d go and hang out with another dude. Todd understood. At the same time, Zappa had these snarky songs like ‘Broken Hearts are for Assholes.’ It was tough love. You gotta broken heart? Deal with it. Todd Rundgren’s music was there to give you a hug. I wanted to contrast the hard-bitten Zappa followed by a bleeding heart Rundgren ballad.”
“Todd Rundgren holds a very special place in my heart,” Palermo says. “I realized I was in love with my girlfriend (now wife) listening to his album Something/Anything? It was about 2 years ago doing our regular hit at The Falcon that I decided to have Zodd Zundgren night. A lot of people who like the music of Zappa also like Rundgren and Steely Dan, but there are enough Steely Dan cover bands out there.”
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