allan zavod
random notes / biography

Allan Zavod is an Australian whose father, Edward Zavod, was a violinist. Allan was classically trained on piano, and at the age of twelve he was taken on the road to the United States as his father’s accompanist. He studied at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and Berklee College of Music in Boston , and his major influences on piano were Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans. On graduation he commenced his adult professional career in New York in the early 1970s as a big band pianist, working with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Woody Herman, Mike Gibbs and Gary Burton, Maynard Ferguson, and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis orchestra.

Moving away from the big band format, Zavod was a member of the jazz-rock group New York Mary, which was formed by musicians who had all worked with Maynard Ferguson. He then worked with Billy Cobham, which led to his joining Jean-Luc Ponty in 1976. He remained with Ponty for eight years. Other musical associations were with George Benson and saxophonist Sonny Fortune.

An Allan Zavod pre-Zappa discography

Allan Zavod’s Zappa gig, 1984

In the April 1978 Contemporary Keyboard Magazine, Zavod described working for Billy Cobham and Jean-Luc Ponty. He said, “You have to play with everything you have for Billy; if you don’t pick up on his energy, you might as well not be there. Jean-Luc is the same way, and any person that I’ve played for who has some greatness or magic about them is in their energy level as well.” Perhaps Zavod brought an excess of energy to the Zappa gig. He certainly evoked wry comments from Zappa in The Real Frank Zappa Book . Commenting on how musicians like to play The Big Solo in order to get The Blow Job, Zappa said, “He would end his solo with this thing that everybody called “The Volcano.” He held the sustain pedal down and churned and smashed away to get a big blur going, and then topped it off at the end with a flourish. It worked every time, but it got to be a band joke. In fact, Allan really is a great pianist (and film composer). It’s just that maybe – because he was working in a rock and roll band – he thought that type of solo was the appropriate vehicle to project his aura across vast continental areas.

In In Cold Sweat: Interviews With Really Scary Musicians, Scott Thunes – never a man to mince words – is more explicit. He says...

censored by Aaron Zaitman & Associates - Solicitors & Consultants -
by means of an e-mail message on 2003/02/20, representing composer/pianist Allan Zavod

After all that, it’s no wonder that Zavod returned to his native Australia, where he has worked successfully as a composer of film music and of music that fuses jazz and classical influences, or, to use Gunther Schuller’s term, Third Stream music. Comprehensive details of his current career can be found on his website:

Geoff Wills 2002