LIVE: Project/Object @ the Cohoes Music Hall, 4/22/18

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Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Photographs by Timothy Reidy

Funny animal, tribute bands. Some – for example the Australian Pink Floyd Show and the Musical Box – pride themselves on faithful recreations of the music they are honoring, note for note renditions as close to the original recordings as possible. Others are a bit looser, adding their own personality and improvisations.

Project/Object, the longest continually touring alumni-based Frank Zappa tribute band, leans more towards the latter. Led by guitarist Andre Cholmondeley, they have been in existence for 25 years, preaching the gospel of Uncle Frank to the dedicated fan base. And during that time their appeal has been greatly enhanced by featuring alumni from the various line-ups of the amazing bands that Zappa led throughout his career.

For this short tour, making its fourth stop at the Cohoes Music Hall on a recent Sunday evening, the special guest performers were Napoleon Murphy Brock, main vocalist and sax player of the early ’70s version, and Denny Walley, long-serving sideman and slide guitarist throughout the ’70s & ’80s. Both rolled back the years, and their beaming expressions showed their obvious delight at the chance to revisit past glories. Brock is an energetic and genial frontman, his rich, soulful voice as strong as ever, exuding a fedora-topped cool even when busting out goofball dance moves along to the music. Walley, a more reserved presence, contributed stinging guitar parts along with his more familiar slide work, and quite effectively handled the couple of lead vocal slots he was given, although to my knowledge he rarely sang in the original band.

The material covered most eras but with an obvious bias towards albums that featured the alumni, like Bongo Fury and Roxy & Elsewhere. The core Project/Object band was rounded out by bassist Andrew Walley, drummer Jerry Cuccurullo and keyboardist Kendall Scott – all fine musicians, deftly negotiating the twists and turns of Zappa’s knotty compositions.

And that music? Well, it has been said that you either get Zappa or you don’t. It would be an understatement to call it varied, as he touched on pretty much every genre of music during his lifetime, with a body of work that veered (intentionally) from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Project/Object are probably not going to make you a believer; they are playing to the converted. But if you are a fan and want to experience the Zappa magic played live by a bunch of enthusiastic devotees, with the added
bonus of esteemed original participants, then this Project should be your Objective.

PROJECT/OBJECT SET LIST
Can’t Afford No Shoes
Carolina Hard Core Ecstasy
Find Her Finer
A Pound for a Brown on the Bus
Pygmy Twylyte (incorporating The Message)
Tryin’ to Grow a Chin
Zomby Woof
T’Mershi Duween
The Idiot Bastard Son
City of Tiny Lites
Poofter’s Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead
Big Swifty
Jones Crusher
Advance Romance
Son of Orange County
More Trouble Every Day
Cosmik Debris
Andy

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