Don Van Vliet’s orchestral performances

Some previously overlooked performances by Don Van Vliet have recently been documented by Bill Lantz, one of the world’s foremost Zappa-ologists.

In September 1975 The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra was put together to present a series of orchestral pieces written by Frank Zappa. Michael Zearott was the conductor and Frank produced and recorded most of these shows. Forty musicians were assembled by Zappa with help from Earle Dumler and Mike Altschul. One of the orchestra members was Don Van Vliet who played soprano saxophone.

If anyone has access to recordings from this project we’d be very interested to hear them.

View the full story.

Thanks to Fire Party member brainpang for spotting this.


  1. I doubt that Don would have the classical training to read sheet music in general let alone the chops to play Zappa’s music. That being said, I hope he was there and that they allowed him a solo or something….
    Also, considering his erratic behavior (on and offstage) during the Bongo Fury tour-which Zappa did take an offense to, I doubt that Zappa would have trusted him to play in his orchestra (considering how tight they would need to be and how expensive it was to organize those concerts-6 figures we’re looking at).
    But like I said, I hope I’m wrong and he was there to perform…

  2. Hi – I was at the Abnuceals
    Royce Hall show, and Don did
    blow some sax – it was during
    the final song, the end section
    of Strictly Genteel, and Don
    just wailed in his usual style…
    Of course, he was not in the
    orchestra, he just came out in
    the end… I saw him after the
    show, outside, and he seemed to
    be in a good mood…

  3. Wow, I recant. So did he play during “SG” or was it for an encore? If so, was he playing with the band or was it that the band stopped and let him go nuts?

  4. Don played his wild sax over the chords at the end of S.G. The orchestra played those simple chords repeatedly, as a vamp…
    This was all recorded by Zappa,
    with a recording studio truck at
    the back of Royce Hall…
    Also, an audience recording exists…

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