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Frank Zappa - Wazoo CD (album) cover

WAZOO

Frank Zappa

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.17 | 74 ratings

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TCat
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.

TCat | 5/5 |

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