Stinkfoot Orchestra with Zappa Alum Napoleon Murphy Brock Debuts in San Jose
San JosÃ© based singer and keyboardist, Nick chargin put a lot of effort, over the past two years, to reinvigorate Frank Zappa’s music, as delivered by Frank’s handpicked frontman of the 1970s: San Jose’s One and Only, Napoleon Murphy Brock (aka âNapi.â) This effort culminated in the recent first performance of the Stinkfoot Orchestra at the Art Boutiki Gallery in San Jose on Friday, September 11.
This cozy yet intimate room hosted a VIP pre-show meeting, followed by a very energetic and professional review of the best of the Zappa repertoire from the Napi era, as well as some choice vocal and instrumental gems from other eras, delivered by the Stinkfoot Orchestra.
Chargin (formerly of the Blissninnies, among other bands) has assembled a cohort of extremely talented and music-loving musicians to support the effort to present this much-loved but often difficult material. As a conductor, Chargin offered Napoleon the opportunity to step back in time and be the face of music.
The Stinkfoot Orchestra presented a flamboyant six-piece brass section with Jean Hassan (baritone saxophone), Jo Major (tenor and soprano saxophone), Paul Degen (saxophone / flute) Mike McWilliams (trumpet / bugle), Kevin Kono (trumpet) and Mark “DBone” DeSimone (trombone). The rhythm section of the orchestra was composed of master percussionists and vibraphonists Dillon vado, drummer Michel palladino and rock bassist Josh baker, with the exceptionally talented guitarist Tomek Sikora which delivered fantastic tones, subtle precision and a remarkable touch in the rendering of this fully composed music. Improvements did take place but they were rare, which really underlined the challenge to Tomek.
Supporting Napoleon at every turn, the orchestra featured Chargin’s effervescent personality, catchy vocals and keyboards, as well as a trio of expressive choristers – Mike Boston, Lainey Leone and Suzi Baker. Napoleon Murphy Brock delivered most of the evening’s vocal dramas and contributed tenor saxophone and flute in complicated compositions like “Echidna’s (Arf of You), du Living at Roxy time.
In an interview I did in July with Napi, he said, âI appreciate that they have prepared well. They learned the music correctly, they play the right notes and they express themselves about it. I didn’t have to go in and teach anything. If they didn’t do it right, I wouldn’t introduce myself. I mean, the standard is high.
Chargin set up the entertainment for the evening by presenting the entire 14-piece group with the strains of “Zoot Allures” as the overarching theme. A suite of songs from the 1974s Roxy and elsewhere The album followed, which included “Son of Orange County”, “More Trouble Every Day” and the epic “Penguin in Bondage”, all delivered with skill, humor and ironic excellence. “City of Tiny Lights”, from Frank’s 1979 opus, Sheikh Yerbouti regular.
Going back in time to 1972, “Blessed Relief”, an instrumental piece by Grand Wazoo, brought back to the present with another track from 1979, “Outside Now”, by Joe’s Garage Acts II and III. “Dirty Love”, by Night feeling (circa 1973) had all the bite and nastiness of the album track with Napoleon expertly covering the vocals initially established by trumpeter Sal Marquez. With all the time lag, it was no surprise that âDirty Loveâ flowed seamlessly into âMagic Fingers,â starting in the 1971s. 200 motels LP.
“Florentine Pogen”, extract from the LP of 1975 Unique size, led to “Uncle Remus”, from the 1974 LP Apostrophe. Towards the end of the set, Napoleon walked towards the green room. The Stinkfoot Orchestra showed off their incredibly tight instrumental chops (with playful humor) by applying their skills to the familiar “Joe’s Garage”, from the eponymous LP, released in 1979. SFO did a terrific job emulating all the elements of novelty of the elements. voiceovers from “Joe’s Garage” to great effect, led by vocal emulation close to Zappa by Boston and “neighbor nagging”, hilarity by Baker.
After a brief intermission, the second image of the night opened with “Camarillo Brillo”, by Night feeling with a smooth transition to a pair of melodies that Napoleon considers to be the heart of his contribution to the Zappa repertoire, “Village of the Sun” and “Echidna’s Arf of You”, from the 1974s Living at Roxy double LP (and film). From there, things got cynical and dark with Napi’s expert version of “I’m The Slime,” from Night feeling. “Advance Romance”, from the 1975s Bongo Fury followed by “Sofa 1” by Unique size concluded this series of tunes from the 1970s.
“Heavenly Bank Account”, 1981s You are what you Is followed by a return to the 70s with “Zomby Woof” and “Montana”, by Night feeling then âInca Routesâ, from Unique size concluded the pre-still part of the show.
The four-song encore was rich in classics starting with FZ’s contribution to The real book, “Peaches en Regalia,” from the 1969s Hot rats, let guitarist Sikora skillfully shine on the guitar, supported by the full power of the six-piece SFO brass section.
“Muffin Man” by Bongo Fury was nicely delivered by Napoleon with his existential thoughts on the nomenclature of baked goods and sexual confusion. The classic “Cosmik Debris” was a final comedic offering for the night, with even more drama set aside for the ultimate showpiece of the night, “Andy,” from Unique size, who put an emphatic exclamation point on this first show of devotion to the life and music of Frank Zappa.
The Stinkfoot Orchestra with Napoleon Murphy Brock admirably delivered all the musical virtuosity, compositional nonconformity and satire of American culture that Frank Zappa has distilled into his vast body of work. Rumor has it that Napi is âfullâ on more live performances and Nick Chargin and The Stinkfoot Orchestra are currently planning fall shows and expanding their already large repertoire to entertain loyal Zappa-nuts and new fans.
The impression left upon returning home from this experience was one of deep appreciation mixed with laughter and amazement. The Stinkfoot Orchestra is more than worth your time and money.
Series 1: Zoot Allures (Group Intros)> Sons of Orange County> No More Trouble Every Day, Penguin in Slavery> City of Tiny Lights, Blessed Relief> Outdoors Now, Dirty Love> Magic Fingers , Florentine Pogen> Uncle Remus, Joe’s Garage
Second Series: Camarillo Brillo> Village of the Sun, Echidna’s Arf of You> I’m the Slime> Advance Romance> Sofa # 1> Heavenly Bank Account> Zomby Woof, Montana> Inca Roads
Again: Peaches en Regalia, Muffin Man> Cosmik Debris> Andy