Album Review — Frank Zappa: Wazoo

By  Gillian G. Gaar

This release documents the last performance by Frank Zappa’s “alternative orchestra” — referred to by Frank as The Mothers Of Invention/Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo — on Sept. 24, 1972, at Boston Music Hall. It’s a fascinating performance that demonstrates once again what a renaissance artist Zappa was, fearless at exploring different musical genres.

To those not familiar with this period in Zappa’s career, the music is essentially a melding of rock and jazz. The instrumental mix is intriguing; guitars, trumpets and trombones, electric cello, oboe and bassoon, and marimba are just some of the instruments intermingling in the musical brew. The opening track (following the introductions), “The Grand Wazoo,” swings along with great glee, and is one of the more “conventional” pieces in this setting.

“Approximate” has a decided avant-garde edge, with the musicians free to choose what pitch they play at, though the end result isn’t as cacophonous as you might expect. “Big Swifty” is especially pleasing, at turns a funky jam that quickly gets right in the groove; it’s a rather fuller version of the piece than appears on the Waka/Zawaka album.

The running order of the show has been rejigged slightly on the CDs, in that “Swifty” originally followed the extended suite “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary.” On this release, “Peccary” has been placed on the second CD, so that the 32-minute piece can play in its entirety. The piece is performed as an instrumental (though lyrics are printed in the accompanying booklet). It succeeds well enough even without lyrics, a sprawling panorama of sounds that glides through a variety of styles, from the kind of rhythmic jumping one associates with cartoons to a Latin-flavored beat. The crowd’s response is most enthusiastic for this piece, which rightly closes the show, though there is an encore.

The performance is previously unreleased, which should please Zappa aficionados, who will also note that some of these numbers would be recorded by Zappa later in his career. In the original notes Zappa wrote for the release, he expressed his desire to put together a group “capable of performing intricate compositions at the same sound-intensity levels normally associated with other forms of pop music.” In that, he was successful.

Click here to check out the latest price guides from Goldmine

Leave a Reply