Monday, April 29, 2013

Frank Zappa 16: The Grand Wazoo

Mere months after Waka/Jawaka, its sibling appeared. The Grand Wazoo offers even more jazz fusion with many of the same musicians, but even more horns and woodwinds. While credited to The Mothers, it’s still part of the Hot Rats genre, with a minimum of lyrics. The lengthy liner notes and cover art suggest some kind of concept behind the album (helped by appearance of the Uncle Meat character), but as with most of his stabs at this genre, there’s no real story to follow.
“For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)” is a slower number in the tradition of “Twenty Small Cigars”, but with mysterious vocals and a lot of random blowing. The title track presents a good argument for letting his music speak for itself—just ask yourself if you could sit through all 13 minutes as easily if Flo & Eddie had been allowed to sing over it. Its multiple themes are presented very well, with plenty of soloing and a decent three-note riff that’s so simple it’s perfect. (On all CD versions, these two tracks are swapped, making for preferable listening.)
“Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus” hearkens back slightly to “Peaches En Regalia”, with a jangly piano and wacky solo by legendary sax man Ernie Watts, but scatted vocals where another horn part should be. “Eat That Question” begins with a lengthy electric piano exploration by George Duke, then Frank joins for a heavily-wahed riff and solo. The festivities turn chaotic, then slow to a halt, before reviving the riff again. (Maybe it is supposed to illustrate something in the story after all.) The very title “Blessed Relief” suggests something of a finale, but in this case it’s just a lot of frilly sounding flutes and electric piano over a lazy jazz beat.
The concept aside, there are enough similarities between The Grand Wazoo and Waka/Jawaka to make the differences almost arbitrary. It could be said that the best of both albums could have been combined into one excellent collection, but that would likely be considered blasphemy so we’ll just leave it there.

The Mothers The Grand Wazoo (1972)—3

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