North Texan magazine, the alumni organ of the University of North Texas, has a nice little story in the current issue about UNT grad Arthur Barrow, who went through a rather unorthodox audition process to become bass player in Frank Zappa‘s band for two years. Zappa was known for his exceedingly high standards and difficult music, but Barrow delved right into his new gig and even led grueling rehearsals leading up to the group’s international tour.
What’s most interesting is that Barrow is now a resource for current students via UNT professor Joseph Klein, who teaches an annual summer course “on the prolific mix of Zappa’s mainstream classical, avant-garde classical, jazz, rhythm and blues, and electro-acoustic music.” Barrow chats with the students during one classroom session to help them get a better grasp of what it was like to play with the musical icon. Klein, incidentally, was featured on a recent 90.1 At Night program in which host Paul Slavens traced the evolution of Zappa’s work.
The music also lives on live via Zappa’s son Dweezil, who has been touring over the past couple of years with a band recreating Frank’s music as “Zappa Plays Zappa.” There are still a few chances left to catch them live, though you’ll have to travel to Japan to do so.
As befits a magazine for a school known for its music program, the Barrow article goes into a fair amount of musical detail without becoming too esoteric, and manages to get the terminology and tone just right. It’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time, particularly if you ever enjoyed any sampling of Zappa’s musical eccentricities.