School of the Arts

Jazz X-Press: "The Smell of Jazz"

Frank Zappa bust

California State University, Chico’s School of the Arts presents the Jazz X-Press concert, “The Smell of Jazz” on Saturday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m. in Harlen Adams Theatre. Purchase tickets at the University Box Office or by calling 530-898-6333.

In 1973, Frank Zappa famously said, “Jazz is not dead…it just smells funny.” The Jazz X-Press pays homage to the works of Frank Zappa with professor and student arrangements in a Big Band setting.

Zappa (1940–1993) was an American musician, composer, and bandleader with a career spanning over 30 years. He is considered one of the most innovative and stylistically diverse rock musicians of his era, utilizing free-form improvisation, sound experiments, and satire of the American culture. Although he is identified as a rock musician, Zappa has also composed jazz, jazz fusion, pop, orchestral and musique concrete works. Zappa’s connection with jazz was recognized throughout his career, and his jazz-rock works are still played by jazz musicians today.

Zappa’s band, The Mothers of Invention, was signed to MGM in 1964 after Tom Wilson heard the rock ‘n’ roll band perform a blues song. Both rock ‘n’ roll and jazz have roots in the blues. Despite being identified as a rock group, the Mothers played at the Boston Globe Jazz Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival, and were invited to tour as part of the George Wein package. During this period, Zappa took advantage of his time around jazz musicians to sit in with them, which produced more color in his future compositions.

Zappa released several jazz works during his career. “America Drinks and Goes Home” from the album Absolutely Free (1967) is a song protesting the trivialization of jazz. It is a parody of a lounge band playing watered-down jazz music with Tin Pan Alley’s overused formula II-V-I. In 1969, The Mothers came out with Burnt Weeny Sandwich, a proto-jazz-rock album. The jazz waltz “Toads of the Short Forest” appeared on the album Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970) and included a spoken commentary on the jazz time signatures. After the Mothers breakup, Zappa released three albums (1969–1972) that became known as his jazz-rock trilogy, Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka, and The Grand Wazoo. Hot Rats is a mostly instrumental jazz-rock album in which Zappa played the guitar. It is missing his signature satire. Two well-known songs off the album are “Peaches en Regalia” and “Son of Mr. Green Genes.” “Twenty Small Cigars,” an outtake from this album, later appeared on the album Chunga’s Revenge and is considered by many to be Zappa’s jazz masterpiece.


Story by Shelby Casey, School of the Arts publicity assistant

About the Jazz X-Press

The Jazz X-Press, directed by Rocky Winslow, is the top jazz ensemble at CSU, Chico. There are about 20 CSU, Chico students of any major in this auditioned ensemble. Instrumentation includes trombone, trumpet, saxophone, bass, guitar, drums, and piano. The Jazz X-Press plays pieces from standard big band jazz to cutting edge jazz to student compositions. Styles of pieces can include standard jazz, funk, Latin, rock, etc. In their concerts, the ensemble makes use of jazz improvisation and original “charts” written specifically for the ensemble.

About the Director

Rocky Winslow picture, portrait style

Rocky Winslow has been the director of jazz studies at California State University, Chico since 2002. Winslow received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in jazz studies from University of North Texas. In addition to his experiences as a professor, Winslow is also a professional trumpet Yamaha artist and clinician, appearing regularly at high schools and universities around the country. He has served as the all-state guest conductor and a trumpet clinician for music education associations in Texas, Nevada, California, Arkansas, Hawaii, Australia, Japan, and Scotland. As a performer, Winslow has shared the stage, recorded, and toured with artists such as Maynard Ferguson, Tony Bennett, Jimmy Heath, Vincent Falcone Orchestra, Chaka Khan, Peabo Bryson, The Temptations, Don Menza Big Band, Natalie Cole, Drew Carey, Paul Anka, The Four Tops, Bob Newhart, Frankie Valli, and many others.