The Stinkfoot orchestra 

In the early months of 2019, South Bay musician Nick Chargin (keyboards and vocals)  got a wild hair up his ass. Best known for his work with the successful Bay Area cover band, the Houserockers, Nick had the idea of assembling an ensemble to give a tip of the hat to one of his greatest musical influences – Frank Zappa. The goal he set was to perform a handful of shows in the Winter of 2020 in celebration of what would have been Frank’s 80th birthday.

But it couldn’t be just any band…
There had to be horns.
There had to be a mallet player.
There had to be backup singers.
This had to be more than a band that was capable of playing “all the right notes” – it had to be a band that was capable of performing Frank’s music with accuracy and integrity.

The first two people he contacted were Victor Manning (a guitarist with whom Nick had played music with for well over 20 years) and Jon Hassan (a Baritone/Tenor Sax player and fellow member of the Houserockers) – who were both rabid fans of Frank’s music. With their buy-in, Nick quickly filled out the rhythm section with friends and fellow Zappaphiles Michael Palladino (drums) and Josh Baker (bass). It took some time to fill the mallet player slot, but after scaring away multiple Bay Area orchestral percussionists, they found a musician willing to take on the enormous challenge of covering Ruth Underwood’s impossible lines in  Dillon Vado (tuned percussion). The 6-piece horn section came together by enlisting Mark “Dbone” DeSimone (Trombone), Kevin Kono (Trumpet, Flugel Horn), Jo Major (Tenor/Soprano Sax and Flute),  Mike McWilliams (Trumpet), and  Paul Degen (Tenor/Alto/Bari Sax and Flute). The ensemble was eventually rounded out with 3 dedicated vocalists – Suzi Baker , Amy Barnes , and  Mike Boston .

A couple months into rhythm section rehearsals, the group was hit with an enormous loss when their guitarist, Victor Manning, passed away unexpectedly. After a month of grieving and waffling on whether to scrap the project altogether, Nick came to the conclusion that Victor “would have kicked my ass” if he did not see this project to fruition. After a significant search, the band found the perfect replacement in Tomek Sikora (guitar) and they began the daunting task of learning some very difficult music. But it could still come up a notch…

Nick and other members of the band had worked with Zappa alumni Ike Willis 15 years previously, and Nick thought the one thing that would give this band a real sense of authenticity would be to front it with one of Frank’s dynamic male vocalists. So, with the help of his friend André Cholmondeley (leader of the legendary East Coast Zappa tribute band, Project Object), Nick was able to enlist the legendary Napoleon Murphy Brock – a San Jose native who served as the iconic voice of Frank’s music throughout the early 1970‘s.

When asked what songs people can expect the band to cover, Nick responds “Well, given the fact that we have Napoleon on board, we are naturally incorporating a large amount of material from his era with Frank. Roxy and Elsewhere (Zappa’s 1974 live double album) is one of my favorite albums of all time, so there are a number of songs we pulled from that. Apostrophe, One Size Fits All, Bongo Fury…folks can expect a sizable amount of material from those albums. At the same time, Frank’s catalog is so immense and diverse that we can’t properly present a snapshot of his work without delving into everything from his earliest days with the Mothers through the 1980‘s. We have an amazing 6-piece horn section, so we are able to do justice to stuff from albums such as The Grand Wazoo and Waka Jawaka. We have 5 great singers, so we are also tackling some more vocal-intensive stuff from You Are What You Is and Joe’s Garage…really, there is something for fans of all periods of Frank’s music. I don’t want to give away too much more – we want to keep a certain element of surprise to the performances, ya know?”

Given the amount of work required to perform much of Zappa’s material, one might question what motivates this group of musicians to dedicate themselves to such a huge undertaking. Nick’s response is simple… “Frank’s music has had such a huge influence over my musical development. It actually makes me a little nuts when I think of the fact that his virtuosity never really received proper accolades here in the States. This music is historically important – and I feel it is the responsibility of those who ‘get it’ to help keep it alive and, hopefully, introduce more people to it. On any given night, I realize that we may serve as someone’s first exposure to Frank Zappa – and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”

“It has been a tremendous amount of work, but I cannot even begin to list the ways in which it has been fulfilling for me as a musician”, Nick continues. “Yes, getting the lines under our fingers has been a challenge, but that merely scratches the surface of what it has taken to bring this project to the stage. Most of the horn charts were transcribed by ear from various (Zappa) ensembles by Dbone, Hassan and me – but I had never created a horn chart in my life – quite a way to cut one’s teeth…” he says. “Never mind the logistics involved with getting such a large group of working musicians together and dealing with all managerial aspects of the band. Yeah – it’s been a full-time job for me for the past year, but well worth the effort. I can’t wait for people to hear what we have put together. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I think people are going to be blown away by this project.”


                                                  

Nick Chargin

KEYBOARDS & VOCALS & VISIONs & poodle grooming

 

Nick began studying piano at age 5, later picking up guitar at age 15. A California native, Nick moved to San Jose in 1984 to study music production, keyboard synthesis and performance at SJSU under Dan Wyman and Alan Strange. He has been playing professionally since age 17 with the majority of his time spent writing, playing and recording original music with such Bay Area bands as Swing Party, BlissNinnies, Elephino and Corduroy Jim.
Over the years, Nick has shared the stage with such acts as the String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Zero, the Kantner Balin Cassidy Band, Steve Kimmock, KVHW, JGB, the Radiators, Merle Saunders, Eddie Money, Starship, Firehose, Wang Chung and Jonathan Richman. For the past 15 years, Nick has been a vital part of the critically acclaimed South Bay band, the Houserockers, has backed the legendary Zigaboo Modeliste and at one point assembled a short-lived band playing Zappa music backing Ike Willis.

                                  

Napoleon Murphy Brock

Vocals & Tenor Sax & Flute & style icon

 

Napoleon Murphy Brock, front man for Frank Zappa in the early seventies, was first discovered by Frank on a day off in Hawaii. Frank and his band stopped into a club where Brock was leading his band through a set of originals and contemporary funk, rock and blues hits. Zappa was immediately struck by Brock’s voice and sax playing, but was particularly taken by his commanding stage presence.

Brock soon hit the stage and studio with Zappa, first appearing on the breakthrough album, Apostrophe (‘). By 1974, Napoleon had learned and memorized the Zappa Song Book (including new material written specifically for Napoleon) and recordings from the 1973 concerts were soon released on what many consider to be Frank’s penultimate live album – Roxy and Elsewhere. To this day, the all-star “Roxy Band” is commonly considered one of the greatest bands that Frank ever assembled.

The release of One Size Fits All followed which, like Roxy, became hugely influential on not only Zappa fans, but fans of progressive rock, fusion, and bluesy jazz-rock in general. In 1975 Zappa released the iconic Bongo Fury, a live album which documented the collaborative tour that year with the last Mothers lineup (including old friend and co-conspirator, Captain Beefheart).

After the 1975 and 1976 Zappa tours, Brock went on to tour and record with fellow Zappa alum George Duke in his 

hugely popular George Duke Band. He went on to make several albums with Duke including Master Of The Game, 

Follow The Rainbow, Dukey Treats, and Don’t Let Go (which spawned Duke’s huge hit “Dukey Stick”). 

At the end of the 1970’s, Frank again called on Napoleon to provide vocals on the recording of Sheik Yerbouti – which went on to become Zappa’s biggest selling album worldwide. The fact that Frank called on Napoleon to lay down vocal tracks (including the lead vocal on “Wild Love”) speaks volumes about Frank’s continued respect and trust in Napoleon’s vocal prowess.

Since 2001, Brock has worked with several Zappa tribute bands around the world including Project/Object, the longest continually touring alumni-based Zappa tribute band in the world. In 2007, Napoleon received a Grammy Award for his work with Dweezil Zappa on the live album release from the inaugural tour of Zappa Plays Zappa. He continues to perform, record and lecture around the world.

 

 

                                  

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Dillon VADO

tuned Percussion & impossible possibilities

 

Dillon Vado is a professional drummer and vibraphonist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a graduate of the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley. He grew up in San Jose, where he played many small club gigs on drums and marched snare drum for the Santa Clara Vanguard. He has recorded at Fantasy Studios,  and played with many musicians at The Freight and Salvage, Yoshi’s, and the SF Jazz Center. He has also performed overseas at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. Dillon has performed with Art Lande, Hafez Modirzadeh, Royal Hartigan,  Marcus Shelby, Erik Jekabson, Jeff Denson, Alan Hall, Jovino Santos Neto, Marcos Silva and Kate McGarry. In 2014, Dillon won 1st place in the Jazz Search West competition on vibraphone. Dillon was also acknowledged as the Most Promising Young Jazz Artist of 2017 from the  Buddy Montgomery Jazz Legacy Awards. He regularly performs on vibraphone with Alan Hall’s Ratatet, on drums with The Jeff Denson Quartet, and Erik Jekabson’s Electric Squeezebox Orchestra and leads several of his own projects, including Never Weather, The Table Trio, and Beyond Words: Jazz and Poetry.

 

 

                                  

 

Josh Baker

Bass & random screams

 

Josh started his love of music with the Piano at age 8 and was hooked. The bass came into focus at age 12. Josh’s early years on bass was  in the Abraham Lincoln High School Jazz band for 4 years where he had the privilege of playing many in High School Jazz band competitions and even playing in Hawaii for the Aloha Bowl. Josh also received the Louis Armstrong High School Jazz Award for recognition in his Senior year. After High School, Josh spent his summer at the Berklee College summer music program in Santa Fe New Mexico. Josh studied 2 years with bass player Keith Jones( Santana, Flora Purim,and Andy Narrell) 

 Josh has played with local bands Sporadic Greetings, George Heagerty & Never the Same, Soup, Grampa’s Chili, the Sliders, Black Sunday RoadShow and Levi Jack

 

 

                                  

Michael Palladino

Drums & Spankings

 

Michael has been drumming professionally in the greater Bay Area for over 25 years. He studied various rhythmic styles ranging from jazz to West African and afro-Cuban under the tutelage of San Jose State professors Dan Sabanovich and Royal Hartigan. His band credits include Soup, Sporadic Greetings, Mescalito, Corduroy Jim, Grampa’s Chili and Tricycle Side Project, for which he had the opportunity to perform with Ike Willis from Frank Zappa’s esteemed list of previous band members. He has performed at hundreds of venues up and down the entire West Coast bringing his unique style and energy to every performance he gives.

 

 

                                  

Jon Hassan

Saxophones & megaphones & stank

 

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Jo Major

Saxophones & Flute & punctuality

 

Jo Major began playing professionally in his teens and has played with a variety of groups, including the Jimmy Dorsey band and the University of Illinois Jazz Ensemble. In the local area,  he has been featured with A Touch of Brass, the KA Wonton Little Latin Jazz Big Band, Bug Horn Rex and the Chabot Jazz Ensemble.
In settings ranging from salsa to swing, he has been featured with Ernie Watts, Bobby Shew, Eric Marienthal, Wayne Bergeron, Francisco Torres, and Geoffrey Keezer.
Jo has studied with Ben Torres, Kristen Strom, Charlie McCarthy, Bob Reynolds, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and Chris Cheek. He is a member of Bob Reynolds Studio.

                                  

Mike McWilliams

Trumpets & crumpets

 

Mike McWilliams started playing the trumpet back in 1974. In 1986, he began performing with cover bands and performing all over the SF Bay Area. He currently is a member of the Houserockers horn section, and teaches private lessons as well as public middle schools with the School Spirit band program.

Mike believes that there is no substitute for real horns, and his influences include Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Maynard Ferguson, and Doc Severnsen. Mike heard his first Zappa cassette tape in 1977 while on tour with the Santa Clara Vanguard and, many years later is enjoying playing this amazing music.

 

                                  

Kevin Kono

Trumpet & Fluglehorn & mastic adhesives

 

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Paul DegEn

Saxophones & Flute & hydrohypnotherapy

 

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Tomek Sikora

Guitars & all things polish

Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, Tomek cut his teeth performing and recording with experimental/post-rock bands such as Primitivo, avant-rock joke band Krolowie Zycia, and electronica artists Meoma in the 1990s. After moving to the U.S. in 2000, he joined several bands in Denver, including Beast with Two Backs, while continuing to gig with friends in Warsaw and Berlin and studying North Indian classical music with sitar maestro Roshan Jamal Bhartiya. 

Tomek’s relocation to the Bay Area in 2011 didn’t prevent him from keeping things happening in Poland. In fact, he played venues ranging from Oakland’s grungy Night Light to the prestigious Littlefield Concert Hall at Mills College with artists such as Majaal (trip-hop), prog-pop quintet Anml Prty, singer-songwriter Cinnamon Lips, and vocal/guitar improv duo Mantra Plonsey while collaborating with electronic artist/composer Bartosz Weber and spoken-word/avant-garde project Śmierć i łzy.

Most recently, he has stayed busy with the Warsaw Improvisers Orchestra, the jazz-rock improv trio No To Do, and world music/groove with Voodoo Cabaret.

 

 

Mike Boston

Vocals & guttural utterances

 

Mike Boston sings, writes and performs with his band Grampa’s Chili (formerly known as Soup) which he founded in the 90’s with his childhood friend Michael Palladino.  Mike has shared the stage with many great bands including his favorites Old Dead Bug and the BlissNinnies.  In addition to performing with his band, Mike directs and produces musical theater productions through out the Bay Area as the Artistic Director for Starting Arts – an arts education provided and theater production company – over 60 productions last year alone.

 

 

 

 

                                 

Mark ‘D-Bone’ De Simone

Trombonisms & ever-changing facial hairs

 

Mark took a liking to the trombone in 5th grade. He joined the school jazz band in 8th grade, and by 9th grade, his arms were almost long enough to actually use the slide effectively. In High School, music theory and improvisation caught Mark’s attention, and helped him justify earning a Bachelor of Music degree from CSU Northridge in Trombone Performance, and a Master of Arts in Composition from San Jose State University. 
Any band leader will tell you it can be hard to find a bone player. Thanks to this fact, Mark has been fortunate enough to play with some very special musicians in the Bay Area. Mark has enjoyed playing with Emperor Norton’s Jazz band, Nineteen, Black Sunday Roadshow, and with the ten-piece band The Houserockers.
As an arranger, Mark enjoys assigning to himself all of the best notes, and all of the most opportune rests. Mark enjoys writing upbeat music with his twin brother Tom as The Brothers Dizz, and alone making weird, dark music as himself. Rest assured, Mark does not always refer to himself in the third person, but there are times when it is appropriate. 

 

                                 

Amy Barnes

Vocals & astral projection

 

Amy Barnes began studying piano and flute at the age of 8. After a fateful move to Santa Cruz at the age of 16, she joined forces with the Musical Group World Entertainment War for 5 very entertaining years. Increasingly fascinated with the human voice, she embarked on an obsessive vocal discovery mission; earning a B.A in Voice Performance from UOP Conservatory followed by an M.A. In Voice Performance from UC Santa Cruz. She has prepared works in more than a dozen languages, and has enjoyed teaching singing as much as the singing itself. Amy has travelled thru many different musical galaxies over the years, and is currently very much enjoying her visit to the Zappa Constellation…

 

 

                                  

Suzi Baker

Vocals & kale distribution

 

Suzanne Baker began her singing career touring with Plum Tuckered, a children’s musical performing group under the direction of Lynn Shurtleff, musical director and composer from Santa Clara University. While growing up, she enjoyed singing in many school and church choirs, but she honed her skills at Abraham Lincoln High School for the Performing Arts in the sixteen member Swing Choir, under the voice instruction of Connie Lukien, musical director of the San Jose Civic Light Opera.  She went on to be lead singer of the innovative band, Sporadic greetings from 1990-1992 and sang back-up vocals in various other bands over the years.  She is very fond of her time directing her own elementary school choirs and currently assisting with her classroom musicals.

 

                                          

  

  

Victor Manning

Guitars

 August 8, 1961 – April 23, 2019