An Interview with Petit Wazoo Trumpeter Gary Barone

In January and April 2002, Jon Naurin and Charles Ulrich interviewed Gary Barone about his experiences playing trumpet with Frank Zappa on the Petit Wazoo tour.

CU: How did you get hired for the Petit Wazoo? Did Jim Gordon recommend you? Did you audition?

GB: There was no audition--I just got the call to play with the band. I'm not sure, but I think Sal Marquez gave Frank my name, or Frank had heard me or heard of me from the L.A. music scene. I was very active on the jazz and recording scene in L.A. at the time, so Frank could have heard about me from others.

CU: You seem to have been hired to replace Sal Marquez, who had appeared prominently on both of FZ's 1972 studio albums and on the Grand Wazoo tour, and who would rejoin FZ's band midway through their spring '73 tour. Do you know why Sal didn't go on the Petit Wazoo tour? Did he have prior commitments?

GB: Although Sal and I were close hangin'-out buddies, I can't remember what went down--whether he chose to do something else or whether Frank wanted to use someone else for the P.W.

CU: Malcolm McNab (and sometimes Tom Malone) also played trumpet on the tour. Was one of you considered "first trumpet" or were you equals? Did you play in unison, or did FZ write separate parts for the two (or three) trumpets?

GB: Malcolm was first trumpet; I was second. For the songs that were written out, there were separate trumpet parts. I can't remember if Malone played trumpet on the written-out parts. If he did, it was third. I think he played mostly tenor sax, flute, piccolo, and trombone.

CU: You forgot tuba!

GB: On the "jam" tunes, it's hard to say what Malone played--he was (and is) amazing!

CU: The following songs regularly featured trumpet solos: "America Drinks And Goes Home", "Chunga's Revenge", "Little Dots", "Son Of Mr. Green Genes", "Waka/Jawaka". Do you remember which songs you soloed in?

GB: I have heard tapes of a few concerts (Washington D.C., Kansas City, Passaic). On these, all improvised trumpet solos are mine--Malcolm's solos were written out by Zappa and Malone had no trumpet solos. I think this will be the same on the tapes of the other concerts as well.

CU: Malone played trumpet on "Little Dots" and on the improvised "Seven/Boogie" at the early show in Washington, D.C. In fact, "Seven/Boogie" contains ten solos, including three trumpet solos, suggesting that everyone in the band took one.

GB: Yes, that had to be Malone playing a trumpet solo.

CU: On stage, FZ referred to Malone's instrument as a "piccolo trumpet". In a press release for the Grand Wazoo tour, he said that Malcolm McNab played "trumpet in D", while Sal Marquez and Tom Malone played "trumpet in Bb".

GB: I don't remember the piccolo trumpet (in Bb) at all, but Malone probably played that too!! It could be that Malcolm played D or C trumpet on the "classical" solos--he definitely played Bb trumpet on most of the ensembles.

Malcolm was (and is) a wonderful classical and studio player. He played some written-out solos that would make other players (including me) piss their pants if they had to play them. My written-out parts were also difficult, but not like Malcolm's solos! Of course, he probably would have pissed his pants if he had to improvise solos like I did (and do)! That's why music is so enchanting!

CU: This helps to explain something that puzzled me. On 10/31/72 (early) Passaic, FZ announced that Malcolm McNab would take the first solo in "Farther Oblivion". But then there was no improvised trumpet solo. Perhaps FZ was trying to goad Malcolm into taking a solo.

GB: The reference to the McNab solo was probably to his written-out solo, no?

CU: Did you play any other instruments besides trumpet on the tour (e.g. flügelhorn)? How about percussion instruments? Which ones?

GB: Yes, I played flügelhorn, too--I used it on some solos. All the horn players played hand percussion instruments. I think I played cow bell or tambourine. There were a few shows where we played anything we had at hand--found objects, floors, etc. I vaguely remember Dave Parlato walking around the stage with a waste basket and strewing paper on the floor--does that count as an instrument?

CU: Who played steel drums on the tour (on "Montana" and some of the improvised pieces)?

GB: Gordon? I'll have to hear it to see if the drums are going at the time. I don't think it was one of the horn players, so if someone in the rhythm section is not playing, it was probably him.

CU: Who sang back-up behind FZ on "Cosmik Debris"?

GB: I would have to hear a good recording of that. Probably Tony Duran.

CU: Jock Ellis reported that you and Jim Gordon were busted for drugs just before the show in Columbia, South Carolina. Do you have anything to add to that story? Do you remember who was the opening act, whose drummer FZ enlisted as a substitute for Jim?

GB: I don't have much to add--or subtract! I can't remember the group's name. Was the drummer Artie Anton? I'm not sure--I would get a second opinion on whether it was Artie or not.

JN: Do you remember if Frank referred to the band as "The Petit Wazoo"?

GB: I don't remember him ever referring to the band as "The Petit Wazoo". I saw this name much later.

JN: Your repertoire consisted mostly of brand new material that had never been played by a band before. In later Zappa ensembles, such songs would often evolve a lot during rehearsals, and change radically before they went on the road. Did this happen with the Petit Wazoo, or did Frank bring definitive, finalized versions of the songs?

GB: The repertoire consisted of three "sets" of songs: the first was the Grand Wazoo arrangements cut down for the smaller band--these were rehearsed and definitive versions. The second group of songs was rehearsed, but not set in stone--they evolved somewhat as we played them. The third group were "jams"--mostly entirely improvised (blues, grooves, etc.). I would have to hear the pieces again to say "how much" they were improvised.

This was probably one of the "jazziest" of Franks bands. He would come and play at the jam sessions in some of the cities on the tour. He seemed to get off playing with the "jazzers". He was amazing. Although he didn't come from the jazz idiom, he wanted to learn more--and sounded good doing it. I really respected him: his ability to put out so much music and so many ideas.

CU: Why was the tune "Waka/Jawaka" dropped from the repertoire early in the tour? Was FZ dissatisfied with the band's performance?

GB: That I don't know. I have "Waka/Jawaka" on a tape from Passaic. Did we play it after that? Probably not. Maybe he was dissatisfied with the performance--could be.

JN: Did Frank ever mention releasing anything by the Petit Wazoo? There's at least one concert where he talks about doing a recording, but to the disappointment of many fans, nothing came of this

GB: To my knowledge, Frank recorded every concert through the sound system board--they should be rather high quality recordings. You probably know more than I about why these have never been released.

JN: What were your impressions of Frank as a band leader? Any lasting impressions of the tour?

GB: I liked Frank a lot. He had some of the qualities I lacked at the time: very organized, knew what he wanted musically, and knew how to get the most out of his players. Personally, he was good with the "sidemen" and also could relate with them on a "fellow player" level. But he could also, when needed, be a demanding leader. I was surprised over his personal behavior (from my image of him before I met him). He was not "wild and crazy" in his every-day life, but his ideas and how he expressed them were wild and unique.

JN: Did the band break up or were you hired on short term for the length of this run only?

GB: I guess the band "broke up" in the sense that it didn't tour more with that group of players. I only remember that the band took on a different form with other players and singers (we had no other singers except Frank), and that Sal started playing with him again.

JN: Did you do any studio work with Frank?

GB: No, I never did any studio work with him.

CU: Did you perform in the concerts (heard on the Orchestral Favorites album) at Royce Hall (UCLA) in September, 1975?

GB: No.

CU: When FZ introduced the members of the band, he often gave them nicknames. In Passaic on 10/31/72, he said, "Gary Barone, trying to recover from last night". In Kansas City on 12/2/72, he said, "Gary 'blinky bromo' Barone". Do you remember what either of these was alluding to?

GB: Both of these chestnuts perhaps refer to the fact that I was known to occasionally imbibe in alcoholic spirits as the spirit moved me, and would, after a particularly "spiritual" night, start the day off with a few Bromo Seltzers to get the old brain cells functioning. Later on in my drinking career, I started the day off with "the hair of the dog that bit me" to get directly in the "spiritual mood" so much that I had to quit the search for "spiritus" and stop drinking if I wanted to remain on the planet. I did that in 1984 and have managed to stay clean and sober since then. Goody goody for me!

CU: Do you have any other memories of working with FZ that you'd like to share?

GB: We were playing Seattle and had rooms booked at the Edgewater Inn--which is really on the "edge of the water." People could get fishing rigs at the desk and angle out of the sliding glass doors of the rooms. The water was directly below and people could catch "mud sharks" if they so wanted. We arrived at the hotel behind the roadies as usual. I went into my room, checked out the bathroom and, much to my amazement, found a few still-squirming mud sharks in my bath tub. Phew, what a shock! The roadies had the keys to the rooms and did a little sport fishing before the band arrived! At the concert that night, we jammed a blues and Frank started singing lyrics that went something like "Do the mud shark, baby." It turned out, I think, that this song was later recorded and became almost a "hit" for Frank, although I may be mistaken.

[Gary is, of course, mistaken about the order of events. The semi-hit version of "The Mud Shark" was actually released on the Fillmore East, June 1971 album, a year before the Petit Wazoo tour. But this underscores the fact that the 1972 version was not rehearsed, since at least one band member thought the song was being created on the spot. A fan who attended the 12/10/72 Seattle show told me, "The audience was hounding him to play it. So reluctantly, he told the band what to play. It was a much better version [than the one on the Fillmore album]. He also showed the audience the dance."]

Besides the "mud shark" story, I remember most our first concert in Montréal. We came on stage and people started throwing hamburgers at the band to say hello! This was cool, except that Dumler had at least five or six very expensive exotic reed instruments and was in the first row of the horns, so he received the brunt of the carrion onslaught. Dumler was a classical player and had never experienced appreciation from the audience in this form! He swooped up his instruments and carried them to safety off stage. The show was slightly delayed until the audience either ran out of burgers, or realized they would hear no Zappa that evening until they found a less disturbing means of showing their affection for him.

CU: Thank you very much. Good night.

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