Guitarist Tim Palmieri (Kung Fu), drummer Bill Carbone (Max Creek) and organist Beau Sasser (Alan Evans Trio) have played together in various musical configurations together over the years. But so far, only one of those projects will bring all three musicians to a new continent. In August, the musicians will travel to Bad Doberan, Germany, as the Z3, to participate in the 24th annual Zappanale, the Bonnaroo of Frank Zappa festivals. They’ll perform alongside Banned from Utopia (with Zappa alums Ray White, Tom Fowler and Ralph Humphrey), Ike Willis’ Pojama People, Polka Streng (a Bohemian polka Zappa tribute), Kazutoki Umeza Kiki Band (from Japan), a performance of Thing-Fish by French supreme absurd-art actor (and porn producer) Sebkha-Chott Galoot’s Formula, and other expectedly eclectic Zappa-related fare from all over the world.

The invitation came about because a friend web-casted one of the first Z3 shows. “We were just saying, ‘We should really play Europe,’” Carbone said. “I come home that night, and the Zappanale people had e-mailed saying they’d seen the show and wanted us to come.”

Over beer and salad at Arch Street Tavern in Hartford last week, Palmieri and Carbone talked about the Z3’s formation at Sasser’s steady Wednesday night residency at Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton, Mass., where Carbone was a regular participant. “It was Beau Sasser night,” Carbone said. “He could do whatever he wanted.” During a break, Sasser recognized the opening of “St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast,” from Zappa’s 1974 album Apostrophe, playing in Carbone’s car. “The relationship got kicked up a notch,” said Carbone. “It became a bromance.”

Sasser soon programmed an all-Zappa night at Bishop’s, and Palmieri — practically a full member of Sparkplug, Carbone and Sasser’s tribute to the late guitarist Melvin Sparks — got involved. Among Zappa heads, Palmieri is the Grand Wazoo, a long-time student of Zappa, who died 20 years ago this December.

“My father owned [the 1969 LP] Hot Rats,” Palmieri said. “I was scared to death by the album cover. ... I was digging into all of my father’s records, and someone played me ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow.’ That was it for me.”

To prepare for Zappanale, the Z3 lined up a June residency at Stella Blues in New Haven, where they’ll play every Monday night. Their Zappanale set will last an hour and a half (the “perfect” length), which they’ll craft in advance from between 55-75 Zappa compositions in their repertoire, including obscure tunes like “Heavy Duty Judy,” “Filthy Habits” and “Flower Punk.” (Here's a Spotify playlist Carbone shared with me.) The evening we met at Arch Street, they were en route to a show in Boston. “Tonight is a little informal,” Carbone said. “We do make set lists. We never go onstage without a set list. We have to have a plan. It’s too intense.”

Much of Zappa’s music was written and performed by large ensembles, and arranging it for just a trio of players is challenging. It’s mostly instrumental, but all three musicians sing; Palmieri, who began transcribing Zappa parts as a teenager, is the main vocalist. Sasser pulls off complex bass lines with his left hand, filling out upper parts with his right. Carbone handles complex time signatures (a regular feature of Zappa’s music) and adds boogaloo funk wherever possible.

“When you strip [Zappa’s music] down to just three people,” Palmieri said, “you realize how full it is. There are layers of nuance that build up... We start asking ourselves: ‘What parts can we live without?’ ... But [Zappa] was the master of unison heads. There was never that much counterpoint. I think of Ravel’s Bolero, just that one melody. We are doing it justice and being ourselves at the same time, and the amount of improvisation we are doing is something new. It can't just be notes on the page.”

“And the average Zappa band had six of the best singers you've ever heard,” Carbone added. “We aren't the best singers you've ever heard.”

Z3 practices consist of six-hour beer-and-pizza fueled sessions. “Z3 whips my ass like nothing else,” Carbone said. “We do a lot of practice on our own, then we do epic practices at Tim's studio in New Haven over pizza and beer. We’ll do six hours.” Ninety percent of their time together is spent working on composed parts and vocals, without improvisation. In Zappa’s music, complex composed sections frequently empty out into harmonically static, rhythmically charged jams, allowing Palmieri, Carbone and Sasser — all New England jam band-scene veterans — to stretch out.

“I love the freedom of Zappa’s music,” Palmieri said. “When you hit that jam section, anything can happen... [Zappa] thought guitar playing was air sculpting. He tried to never repeat himself, ever. His rhythmic bag is definitely way different than conventional Western music. Then, when you analyze it, it's still a blues solo: distorted, minor pentatonic, shredding through this avant-garde lens. A strong personality with strong talent.”

“Just when you think you understand what it's about,” Carbone added, “there's something else that happens... [Zappa’s] musicians are so good that nobody has to state rhythm. Zappa and the drummer are playing counterpoint with each other, as opposed to one accompanying the other.”

At its core, Zappa’s — and by extension the Z3’s — fan base skews older. But the trio hopes that will change, as younger listeners get turned onto Zappa’s music. And although the work needed to pull it off is fairly intense, Palmieri and Carbone said it’s still just a side project.

“We all have our main things, and we never get mad at each other about shows we can't do,” said Carbone. “That's what's sustaining us. It’s an amazing model: less is more. We aren't out there beating on people's doors to get booked... The very first gig was just for fun, but we realized this is freaking cool. A couple of gigs in and people were coming up to us to book us.”

The Z3, Mondays, 9 p.m. until June 25, $7, Stella Blues, 204 Crown St., (203) 752-9764,

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