In 1991, Frank Zappa was chosen to be one of four featured composers at the Frankfurt Festival in Europe. Among those composers were American John Cage, German Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Russian Alexander Knaifel. Even though Zappa was fighting prostate cancer, he accepted Ensemble Modern’s (a German chamber ensemble) request to perform his music and invited them to LA to rehearse. Content with their performance and successful first impressions led to Zappa’s friendships with the musicians.
Several strings of shows lined up from September 17th-28th for the ensemble but Frank Zappa was only able to attend two dates. His cancer was spreading at a high rate and it became very painful for him exist, much less to enjoy a public performance. Despite the disease’s efforts, Zappa was able to conduct several pieces to which he received a twenty minute standing ovation. These events were his last public performances before passing away and the recordings were published on The Yellow Shark – Frank’s last release in his lifetime.
The world lost Frank Vincent Zappa on Saturday December 4th, 1993 just a few weeks before turning fifty three years old and only two days after the release of The Yellow Shark. It’s almost as if he was holding out to put out just one more record before leaving us. Even the cover shows a man turning back towards the camera ready to say “goodbye, but just wait… I’ve got one more for ya.”
Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.-Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa released sixty-two records during his lifetime. Six-tee-two. That does not include singles, compilations, box sets, or any of his session work. Another note worth mentioning is he had so much unreleased music that fifty seven full length records of original tunes have been posthumously released by the Zappa Family Trust.
Twenty-eight years later, it’s a Saturday on December 4th, 2021 and Frank’s music is not forgotten. The first Zappa record I ever heard was Joe’s Garage where songs like “Stick It Out,” “Watermelon in Easter Hay,” and the title track stuck out to me. Frank’s playing style, compositions, and prolific discography made a huge impact on myself and those I’ve collaborated with.