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Frank Zappa - Wazoo CD (album) cover

WAZOO

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.10 | 49 ratings

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fuxi
Prog Reviewer
4 stars All fully-fledged Zappaphiles will be happy with this release, and the same goes for lovers of imaginative 1970s jazz-rock who may have doubts about Zappa's taste in lyrics writing.

This music is fully instrumental. Disc 1 uses themes and riffs from THE GRAND WAZOO and WAKA/JAWAKA as a base for a free-style blowing-session (as I suppose such events are called). This music is at its most enjoyable when some of Zappa's more unusual instrumentalists take over. I particularly enjoyed Bruce Fowler (trombone) and Mike Altshul's (bass clarinet) turns in the spotlight. Zappa himself sounds subtle (and never too long!) on electric guitar, but perhaps the true star of Disc 1 is Ian Underwood, who comes up with several highly idiosyncratic synth solos. Hell, I'll warmly recommend this album for Underwood's playing alone! (Much to my regret, there are no noteworthy solos by Ruth Underwood on vibes.)

All in all, I can't get rid of the idea Zappa's band were mainly warming up for the glorious music you will find on Disc 2. This contains a full half-hour version of "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary", a piece which was hitherto only familiar to me in the studio version (with ludicrous vocals) that can be found on LATHER. Believe me, this orchestral suite is about ten times more impressive without any words. The music ranges from carnavalesque, Mingus-style jazz to cabaret (via classical avant-garde) but the avant- garde does not grate. Indeed, among all the joyful orchestral mayhem there are some highly lyrical solos by Earl Dumler on oboe (at least I assume it's an oboe) and Jeremy Kessler on electric cello. Both of those took my breath away.

It's well known Zappa grew to be mistrustful of musicians; this seems to be one of the main reasons why, toward the end of his life, he recorded more and more music on synclavier. WAZOO, though, clearly shows that he could achieve marvellous things with a proper band. I find it almost unbelievable that this music languished in the vaults for 35 years. The fully instrumental "Greggery Peccary", in its varied moods, strongly reminds me of the multi-coloured "Petrushka". It seems more appropriate than ever to call Zappa "a late-twentieth century Stravinsky".

fuxi | 4/5 |

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