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Frank Zappa - The Grand Wazoo CD (album) cover

THE GRAND WAZOO

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.31 | 585 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Negoba
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Uncle Frank and his Large Band

THE GRAND WAZOO is the third installment in the Hot Rats trilogy, which is the favorite Zappa era for many. Almost completely instrumental, this album represents Zappa applying his unique version of rock-jazz to a band complete with horns, multiple voices, and numerous percussionists. Unlike his later, more stripped down and complex outfit, this one sounds more traditionally jazzy than perhaps any of his other albums. (Extended trumpet and sax solos obviously contribute to this.) But Zappa also offers significant elements of his more refined compositional style, his taste for more avant-garde sounds, and willingness to stretch boundaries.

Aside from the brief lyrics in "For Calvin," this album is completely about the music. The sarcastic humor that is almost always part of the Zappa package is mostly absent on this album. I certainly don't mind this, for even the best humor loses its bite after multiple listenings. At the same time, this is not your prototypical Zappa album and one I would buy in the second round of Zappa albums.

The rock-jazz here is very good. Rather than a typical jazz "head" or lead melody, Zappa has created multipart sections that are punctuated by quite tasty soloing. And like most Frank albums, Zappa's guitar is but one of many great solo instruments. While not as proggy or complex as ONE SIZE FITS ALL or ROXY AND ELSEWHERE, the compositions here are very well done. A mix of early and middle Miles Davis with funk and straight rock are thrown in with Zappa's signature melodic sense and love of craziness. On the title tracks, highly composed group sections will give way to low grooves with subtle solos to all out random madness and back to constructed melody. These melodic parts are among Zappa's best. Memorable instrumental hooks, each distinct to their song, make the tracks stand out despite elements of improvisation (and a little chaos) in each one.

It should also be mentioned that the style here is firmly rooted in a 60's / 70's style that may seem a little dated to modern listener. To be sure, Zappa is giving his very own colors to the style, but perhaps the first impression a new listener is going to hear is how clearly this is an album of its time. Most folks on Prog Archives are more than comfortable with the music of the early 70's, but not of all of Zappa's work is quite this time bound. For this listener, born in the 70's, I enjoy the style as I do most jazz fusion. Zappa injects both more rock and more chaos into his fusion than perhaps anyone else, and I'm glad to have this album in my collection.

I actually bought this album several months ago along with its predecessor WAKA/JAWAKA. Even then this was clearly the better album, but I was not as impressed with GRAND WAZOO as I had expected based on recommendations. Coming back to Zappa with some time separation, I am quite impressed with the quality of the music, and listening to this album 3 or 4 times today for the review, have gained some additional appreciation for it. I'm actually going to give a 4 star rating where I had begun the review expecting 3. It's worth some extra time and depth of attention. For anyone with a Zappa collection extending beyond 2 or 3 albums, this should be part of the library.

Negoba | 4/5 |

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