Absolute Ensemble @ Adelaide Town Hall
9:00pm, Mon 8 Mar 2004
Short Review: Blusteringly gutsy
The Absolute Ensemble, based in New York City and led by Kristjan Jarvi, presented two hours of interpretations of Frank Zappa tunes. The audience was an eclectic mix – classic Arts patrons, old-school Zappa deadheads, and Zappa aficionados.
Jarvi conducts like an excitable loon – he grins manically at his ensemble, drifts off to chat with them during solos, and is the personification of the mad young conductor stereotype. The wonderful thing was watching the musicians get into the music – there was almost more head-bobbing Zappa-digging onstage than there was in the audience. Most of the songs covered were arranged by Charles Coleman and the Ensemble’s Gene Pritsker, who wielded a guitar onstage.
If anything, the problem with this show is that it started too well – “Filthy Habits” was an astonishingly good opener, thumping the audience right in the third eye, and was almost impossible to better. “G-Spot Tornado” challenged it, with a surging, dynamic orchestration; likewise, “Packard Goose” had a stupendous crescendo; “Teenage Prostitute” raced along brilliantly; and “Muffin Man” was a great closer. Bowing to audience demand, Absolute encored “Dirty Love”, complete with a rap by Pritsker.
The only other issue was that the string section of the ensemble sounded a little overwhelmed early on; still, the arrangements of the chosen songs were fantastic: closing your eyes and trying to disassemble the collusion in your mind was magical. A truly unique experience.