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Frank Zappa - Wazoo CD (album) cover

WAZOO

Frank Zappa

RIO/Avant-Prog


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4 stars This is the long-awaited live recording of the Grand Wazoo band. In 1972 Zappa assembled a big band comprised of some of the top LA area jazz musiciansl. This band recorded 2 studio albums - Waka Jawaka & Grand Wazoo. This is as close as Zappa got to jazz. "Grand Wazoo", in particular, is a must-have for any Zappa collection.

2006's "Imaginary Diseases" (also highly recommended!) was a recording of the "Petit Wazoo" tour, which had a smaller brass & wind section. The full "Grand Wazoo" band only did 12 shows. This is a recording of the final concert in Boston.

Disc 1 inlcudes "Grand Wazoo" and "Big Swifty", the long songs from each of the two albums, plus "Aproximate", another long-format tune, which is more in the avant-guarde style. The band sections and solos are all excellent, and really give the peces a very different character than the originals. I consider the version of "Big Swifty" superior to the studio version.

Disc 2 includes a lengthy instrumental version of "Greggery Peccary", minus the narration. Though I love the narration on the studio version, it does overpower the music. This version allows you to focus on the instrumental music in a new light. It is stretched out to 32 minutes and, though there is a slow spot or two, is generally excellent. A very interesting cello solo is a highlight.

This is a very enjoyable album. I think this is the best new release since "Lather". Any fan of Zappa's instrumental music will want to get this one. If you like "Grand Wazoo" and "Roxy and Elsewhere", you need this!

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Send comments to Andreas G (BETA) | Report this review (#153642)
Posted Sunday, December 02, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wazoo is a live album release by American experimental rock artist Frank Zappa. Itīs a 2 CD release with a total playing time of 96:03 minutes. The album was recorded on the 24th of September, 1972 at the Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The album was recorded on the last night of the Grand Wazoo 8-night big band tour. The band consisted of 20 people including Frank Zappa himself on guitar. Frank Zappa also conducted the band. In addition to the more ordinary rock instrumentation of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards ( and of course vibes, marimba and assorted percussion which are a Frank Zappa trademark) the real attraction on this live album are the addition of a brass and a wind section.

The music on Wazoo is a mix of Jazz rock/ Fusion and avant garde classical. A few of the songs are taken from the two jazz/ rock albums Waka/Jawaka (1972) and The Grand Wazoo (1972) which were the most recent releases by Frank Zappa at the time, but we also get an instrumental 32:37 minute long version of The Adventures of Greggery Peccary ( which was unreleased at the time) and also a great version of Approximate ( and a few other shorter songs). The music is fully instrumental except for Frank Zappaīs always entertaining comments between and sometimes in songs. I especially enjoy his explanation of how Approximate is meant to be played ( only rythms. All notes are improvised). While there are lots of structured sections in the songs, the album also features lengthy improvised sections with various members of the band soloing. A real treat and fortunately the soloing is never overdone. The improvisations lasts just the right amount of time to never get boring. The musicianship on the album is outstanding. But thatīs no surprise if youīre familiar with Frank Zappaīs high standards and demanding nature ( he was notoriously known for being very demanding during rehearsals).

The production is warm and itīs nice to hear a live album with absolutely no overdubs ( Well thatīs how it sounds anyway). The album has got a real live feel to it.

Wazoo is an excellent addition to my collection and while I do feel some of the more experimental classical parts exhaust me a bit, itīs hard not to be very impressed by the high level of musicianship and the great jazz/ rock groove that is a big part of the sound too. A 4 star rating is deserved, but I fully understand those that feel this is a 5 star masterpiece. However you want to rate the album itīs a much anticipated archive release for the fans of Frank Zappa but certainly not exclusively of interest to the fans.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#265188)
Posted Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
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".

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#285309)
Posted Sunday, June 06, 2010 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
5 stars Wazoo? Wahoo!

It was about time the Zappa Family Trust released this amazing album. Fans had neeb requesting this material for years.

The album features the final performance of Frank Zappa's largest touring band, playing music from "Waka Jawaka" and "The Grand Wazoo", plus other grand big band pieces. The most impressive aspect of the album is just how tight the band was in playing these incredibly difficult pieces.

The Grand Wazoo (Think It Over) and Big Swifty are both used as frames for incredible solos by this group, that included Bruce Fowler, Sal Marquez, Mike Altshul and Malcolm McNabb, among others. Approximate fills out the first disk, a piece, due to it's open nature, was different every time it was played (the rhythm was written, the musicians were given a choice of notes to play).

The real gem is The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary. The piece here is all instrumental, stretched out with additional material to over a half an hour, and even better than the studio recording.

The concert ends with an orchestral Penis Dimension, which leads into Variant I Processional March, which is actually an early version of Regyptian Strut.

It's nice to know that so long after Zappa's untimely death, his family still has such masterpieces in the vault. Let's hope that there is still more.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#458007)
Posted Tuesday, June 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
HolyMoly
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Forum & Site Admin
3 stars This is Frank Zappa as a big band bandleader. In 1972, while still in a wheelchair from an incident in 1971 where a crazed fan knocked him off a high stage (thus ending the Mothers; this was just a week after the infamous "Smoke on the Water" incident too, at Montreux), Zappa returned to the jazz fusion territory of his 1969 solo album "Hot Rats" and put together some new music scored for a large scale band. Some of this material ended up on the studio album "The Grand Wazoo". But a brief tour with the expanded ensemble was also undertaken, and in 2007 we were able to hear one of these shows for the very first time (unless you were there, of course, or had a bootleg. It was certainly my first time hearing it).

Zappa was no stranger to scoring music for large ensembles. He had already done so for the prior year's "200 Motels" feature film, for a symphony orchestra and choir, and in fact his earliest composing as a teenager had been for orchestral music rather than rock music. So Frank knew what he was doing. If not for the outlandish expense of these shows, who knows, he might have taken it even further. Indeed, I sometimes think that his later pared down rock ensembles were approached by Frank somewhat cynically, as if he were thinking, "well, the shallow kids of America love rock music with a good beat, so I'll disguise my complex music in rock and roll clothing and maybe they'll buy it." He once said in his book that he wouldn't have even bothered to write lyrics for his songs if he didn't believe that rock music fans need lyrics or it goes too far over their heads. Gee thanks, Frank. At least we have this album, a fully instrumental effort that manages to be rocking, intricate, complex, accessible and fun all at the same time. Because he cared enough about instrumental music to make it interesting even without lyrics. I'll take that over "Dirty Love" any day.

Hardcore fans will note the presence of "Greggary Peccary". This version does not have the spirited storytelling but is rather a fully instrumental early reading of the musical themes (and some inspired improvisational sections) that resembles the final version but is by no means the same exact piece. "Variant I Processional March" is an early version of the piece later known as "Re-Gyptian Strut". "Think it Over (The Grand Wazoo)" and "Big Swifty" appeared on the studio albums "The Grand Wazoo" and "Waka/Jawaka", respectively. "Approximate" did not appear on any studio albums, but it was made for stage performance, and was performed frequently by his later rock band lineups. In the piece, each player's rhythm is written out, but the notes are not -- the player can play whatever note they want, so long as they adhere strictly to the (insanely complicated, it turns out) rhythm. It's a lot of fun. And it has a jam section in the middle to reward you with some good old fashioned solos.

In all, this makes for a great archival live release, from a unique period in Zappa's performing history - Zappa not as rock band leader, but more as the conductor of a rockin' jazz orchestra. As great as it is to have a document like this, after the initial thrill wears off,. the seams eventually start to show: the technical difficulties in mic'ing all the instruments properly, the occasionally directionless improvisations, the imperfect execution. For fans of Zappa who love his jazz-oriented material (like me), this is a wonderful release that adds another piece to the "conceptual continuity" that is the Zappa oeuvre. I'll give it a solid 3/5, leaning towards 4.

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Send comments to HolyMoly (BETA) | Report this review (#747336)
Posted Tuesday, May 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
TCat
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is a recording of the last day of an 8-day concert in Boston in 1972. This was the first tour that Zappa did after his stage accident where a crazed fan pushed Zappa off the stage. Frank was still in a wheelchair during this tour and the Mothers of Invention were no more. FZ had put together a 20-piece band for the purpose of performing instrumental jazz/classical/rock fusion music which was the type of music Frank wanted to make above all else. That's what this live album consists of...mostly very long fusion tracks featuring him conducting his big band, which in this line up, was short lived. Some of the members of the band would continue in a smaller context, but this particular line-up has not been documented in an official recording before the release of this album, which was done post-humously in 2007. I'm not sure if the audience was expecting this kind of a concert from FZ after his stint with his "Vaudeville" band which included the annoying yet silly antics of Flo and Eddie. In fact, some member of the audience can be heard hounding Frank about Flo and Eddie and where they were. But the audience, when they can be heard, seem to be enjoying themselves anyway.

This is amazing fusion music that ranges from big band jazz to avant garde fusion, meaning some of it is accessible and some of it is quite non-traditional. The first musical track after band introductions is "The Grand Wazoo" which is a straightforward rock/fusion track which is bookended with a structured melody and a long set of improvised solos conducted by Frank. It is very enjoyable with a lot of great solos. The next number is "Approximate" which is basically a drum solo arranged for a full band. Frank claims that the song was written based upon a drum solo and he added in instruments to play on the beats from the percussion (which is still a strict pattern) but the instruments have only been given a range that they play in and not specific notes. That is the "melody" of the song which forms the basis for more improvised instrumentals through the rest of the piece. Of course, this particular composition is never played in the same way and is very avant garde all the way through, even on the improvised sections. This one is not so accessible, but hopefully with some understanding on the structure of the song, it can become more interesting and easier to listen to. I always love hearing what they do with this song, which has also appeared on a few other live recordings. The last song on the first disc is another more straightforward jazz piece called "Big Swifty" and this uses more traditional jazz stylings. You again have the structure of main melody bookending another great session of improvisation.

On the 2nd disc, Frank opens discussing and introducing the half hour long "Adventures of Greggery Peccary" which on this recording is divided up into 4 sections. This is basically the same song as the original recording of the song on the album "Studio Tan", but this version is only the instrumental version with the story line removed. The actual finished song had not been completed for this concert, but what you get is a great combination of structured music that you will recognize as the music that accompanies the story for the most part with some improvisation thrown in. This is more along the lines of a light avant garde ensemble piece which changes styles a lot. Fans of Zappa will recognize parts of the song easily where other parts are completely different.

The band comes back for 2 short encore pieces, the instrumental version of "Penis Dimension" from the Flo and Eddie days (just to keep those fans happy I suppose) and an early version of "Regyptian Strut" called in this recording "Variant I Processional March".

This is one of the best jazz fusion recordings and one of the best band lineups of Frank's and he was quite pleased to have such a big band to work with during this time. It is too bad the line up was short lived, but the more condensed version of the band was still around for a while and thankfully we have a lot of recordings featuring them. Anyway, for FZ fans and fusion fans, this is an essential recording. The music and production and sound is all top notch. For a recording representative of the more complex recordings and concerts of FZ, this is a masterpiece and does an excellent job of giving us insight into Frank's genius. Definitely an essential avant-prog recording.

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Send comments to TCat (BETA) | Report this review (#1382433)
Posted Saturday, March 14, 2015 | Review Permalink

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