As sometimes happens, I found myself witnessing several unique musical moments this week. Friday, 08.26, I had the privilege of seeing Zappa Plays Zappa opening for Return to Forever at Kansas City’s historic Midland Theater. ZPZ was stunning, as usual, rolling out highlights like “Po-Jama People,” “Willie the Pimp,” “Big Swifty” and “King Kong,” which featured a jaw-dropping duel between Dweezil Zappa and special guest Chick Corea. Though Dweezil is clearly the featured soloist, second guitarist Jamie Kime also displayed stellar style, technique and tone during his one and only lead break. I ran into him outside the venue after the show and said I wished there would’ve been more. His response: “I wish I could’ve given you more.” Indeed.
Headliners Return to Forever played a complex and elegant set packed with the dazzling virtuosity you’d expect. The reunited version of the band features legacy members Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, plus formidable additions violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and guitarist Frank Gambale. Aside from stunning solos, that pair also delivered intricate unison lines that decorated the serpentine compositions. Dreamy stuff.
I had the great fortune of possessing a “meet & greet” pass for this show. These sessions are usually enjoyable, if brief. What I didn’t expect was that those of us with said passes would be permitted to watch the final three songs of the RTF set from the wings of stage right. Standing ten feet away from Chick Corea playing grand piano, looking across the stage into the watchful gaze of Lenny White was very powerful. Afterward, four of the the fusion legends (Ponty was not in attendance) were exceedingly gracious with their time. It was one for the books, I tell ya.
Sunday, 08.28, I took in a performance by country baritone and heartthrob Josh Turner … at a convention of veterinary professionals. Eh, it’s a long story. Anyway, I didn’t catch his current touring guitarist’s name and for the life of me can’t track down on the web (I’ve scoured every page—does anyone know it?), but he was very handy with a Telecaster and was playing through the sweet amp above.