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Frank Zappa - The Grand Wazoo CD (album) cover

THE GRAND WAZOO

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.31 | 610 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is one of my all-time Zapa faves - following in the same big band trend of its immediate predecessor "Waka/Jawaka" (another big personal Zappa fave), "The Grand Wazzo" goes to more bizarre places at times and also portrays a stronger dose of energy in various passages. Take the namesake opener, for instance (my CD copy starts with this one, contrary to other editions that start with 'For Calvin'). 'The Grand Wazoo' is an excellent exercise on jazz oriented jammed stuff solidly sustained by effective guitar chords and a fluid rhythm section: the use of wind instruments is alternated between orchestral textures and big band ornaments, with some expanding solos getting around without breaking the track's internal articulation. There is also a great (albeit a little too brief) guitar solo that rocks really hard. Then comes 'For Calvin (and His next Two Hitch-Hikers)', which comprises the most disturbing passages of the album - those are the bizarre places I was referring to at the beginning of this review. It starts with a bluesy section with some sarcastic singing incorporated: Janet Neville- Ferguson's interventions sound quite sensual, although her whispering delivers are meant to arouse the listener's sense of irony and not some other kind of sense (or sensation). After the sung portion, there comes a brilliant series of successive motifs (first led by the vibes, then by the horn ensemble), in which dissonance and unexpected shifts serve as the rules that provide and maintain a sense of cohesion in a most challenging manner. Beneath all this fiery, demanding series of changes and variations lies an intelligently complex structure. Regarding my personal experience, every time I listen to this piece I simply can't avoid feeling captivated by its radical weirdness, and it makes me wonder if this isn't where the RIO trend was born. hmmm. 'Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus' is another effective jazz number that starts and ends with a big band motif, and in between comprises an extravagant succession of melodic shifts cleverly incepted in a continuous whole - all this in less than a 3-minute duration. 'Eat that Question' is, together with 'For Calvin', my personal fave from this album: for this track, Zappa decided to explore the more robust trends of jazz rock, in this way establishing powerful interconnections with a very inspired George Duke - the martial closing section is an appropriate for such a fiery track. After all this awesome sonic display ends, the closure 'Blessed Relief' takes things down to a calmer, more relaxing stance. The ambience portrayed in this number is that of a jazz club, in an intimate moment when the band on stage plays soft melodies and couples dance in a languid trance: the pairing of acoustic and wah-wah guitar, complemented by the electric piano and adorned by some sax soloing is just mesmeric. As you may notice, there's a fair share of variety of musical sources cooking in "The Grand Wazoo", well integrated in the repertoire and exquisitely performed - IMHO, that's the main reason why this work is an absolute FZ masterpiece.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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