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Phi Yaan-Zek resurrects ghost of Frank Zappa on genre-bending new album

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Phi Yaan-Zek
When rock & roll iconoclast Frank Zappa passed away in 1993, he left behind a spirit of adventure in music that was as revolutionary as it was irreverent. There won't be another like him. However, that doesn't mean there will not be any artists who won't even come close. Zappa's successor just might be a relatively unknown guitarist from London, England named Phi Yaan-Zek.

Yaan-Zek's latest album, Dance with the Anima, a collaboration with drummer Marco Minnemann, is a genre-bending mélange of Joe Satriani-fueled hard rock, classical music, and jazz fusion. In other words, it lives like the ghost of Zappa. But Yaan-Zek is no pale imitation or even an imitator—it would take tremendous skill to even ape Zappa. Rather, Yaan-Zek has plugged into a similar wavelength, subscribing to the philosophy of no stylistic boundaries. On the opening cut, “Adventures in Myth," Yaan-wastes no time in displaying his wild side, leaping from Satriani-esque metallic riffing to John Barry-styled spy scoring to frantic jazz at breakneck speed. Yaan-Zek's unpredictability is refreshing amidst the cookie-cutter blandness that has infected both jazz and progressive rock for the past few decades.

Like Zappa, Yaan-Zek has no eyes set on the pop charts or, for that matter, the jazz standings. His vision is uncompromising but nevertheless accessible to a mainstream crowd. (People tend to forget that about Zappa: His following transcended underground and alternative circles.) On “Midnight Tryst," Yaan-Zek performs his own take on the blues. His guitar playing on “Midnight Tryst" appropriately moody and gritty; like a number of cuts on the album it should be on a movie soundtrack. “Ecstasies of the Starlight Self," on the other hand, reveals the short distance creatively between progressive rock and jazz fusion. As if to further display his eclecticism, Yaan-Zek injects “Maid with Spanish Fly" with a Latin flavor.

If Zappa had lived to record in the age of the iPod, he may have produced a record that shifts from genre to genre as excitedly as this.

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