Frank talk from Dweezil Zappa, who auditions 8-year-old bass player, in Morristown

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Most bass players toil for years hoping to catch a lucky break.

Not Lucas Scardigno.

This week he jammed with Dweezil Zappa.  Not bad for an 8-year-old.

“It’s one of the most astounding things in my life,” the rising fourth-grader from Pine Brook said after his big moment. It came during Zappa’s sound check prior to his 50 Years of Frank concert at Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center on Wednesday.

Dweezil Zappa; Lucas Scaradigno, 8; and Kurt Morgan in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa; Lucas Scaradigno, 8; and Kurt Morgan in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Lucas’ dad, Anthony Scardigno, had bought V.I.P. tickets for them to watch Zappa and his band warm up. When Zappa asked if the admirers included any musicians, Lucas’ hand went up.

Before Lucas knew it, he was standing next to his hero, and Zappa bassist Kurt Morgan was handing over his massive instrument and helping Lucas prop it up.

“I can’t really remember any songs,” Lucas confessed.  

“Just make some noise,” Zappa said.

“This string here sounds like thunder,” Morgan pointed out to Lucas.

Drummer Ryan Brown bashed out a beat, Zappa fired up his Gibson SG, and Lucas anchored the band with his rock-steady foundation.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Dweezil Zappa demonstrates a lick in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa; Lucas Scaradigno, 8; and Kurt Morgan in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morgan congratulate budding bass player Lucas Scaradigno in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa give guitar class in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa gives master class in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa teaches class in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa warms up in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa chats with Jock Clark in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Students with Dweezil Zappa in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa teaches guitarists in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Guitarists listen to Dweezil Zappa in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa riffs in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa leads class in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa class is in session, in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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P1560932 - Dweezil Zappa demonstrates a lick in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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PLAYING YOUR PHONE NUMBER

Lucas wasn’t the only one beaming after jamming with the 47-year-old Zappa. Earlier in the afternoon, 28 aspiring guitarists took a 90-minute master class with Zappa in MPAC’s Starlight Room.

Dweezil Zappa chats with Jock Clark in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dweezil Zappa chats with Jock Clark after guitar class in Morristown, Aug. 2, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“He really knows what he’s talking about…he gave me a new direction to think about,” said Basking Ridge resident Stephen Verdi, 22, who said the $75 fee was money well spent.

Zappa, son of the late avante-garde rocker Frank Zappa, shared fretboard techniques and practice tips–including “playing your phone number”–and fielded questions about his dad.

“My dad wanted to absolutely spontaneously compose. He never played the same thing ever. If you think about it, that’s a pretty difficult challenge, because as guitar players we all have picks and patterns.  He really didn’t. He was able to hear everything, and react to the music,” Zappa told the students.

His father wasn’t afraid to pursue his musical ideas, even when he wasn’t quite able to play them, Zappa said. He encouraged the assembled pickers to be fearless, too.

Video: Frank talk from Dweezil

“It was fantastic,” said Jock Clark, a retired attorney from Morristown. “What I liked was his experimental ideas for coming up with new musical ideas.”

“I wish I had learned this stuff a decade ago,” said Shari Spiro, who plays in a band called The Wayouts.

SIBLING TUG OF WAR

Later, during his two-and-a-half concert, Zappa, referred to his siblings’ tug of war over their father’s estate. Their late mother gave control to the younger ones, Ahmet and Diva, not to Dweezil and sister Moon Unit.

Dweezil Zappa said he was warned to stop calling his act Zappa Plays Zappa; he responded by dubbing it the Cease and Desist tour, with a profanity tacked on.

Yet, he said, “Diva’s free to just go ahead and use Frank’s image on her yoga pants line,” something he said their father never would have stomached. 

As an “antidote to the yoga pants,” Dweezil Zappa launched into his dad’s song, Cosmik Debris: Look here brother, Who you jivin’ with that Cosmik Debris?

There is no such sibling turmoil in the Scardigno household. Not yet, anyway. Don’t be surprised if Lucas and his 13-year-old brother, a budding guitarist, open for Dweezil Zappa in a few years. Their repertoire includes Jimi Hendrix and Cream.

“We’re working on the same songs,” Lucas said. “Right now I’m working on Hey Joe. And one of my other recent ones is Born Under a Bad Sign.”

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