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Zappa/Wazoo [Digipak]
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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Frank Zappa (guitar); Charles Owens II (woodwinds, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone); Tony Duran (slide guitar); Jerry Kessler (electric cello); Jay Migliori (flute, woodwinds, tenor saxophone, wind); Mike Altshul (piccolo, bass clarinet, wind); Ray Reed (clarinet, woodwinds, tenor saxophone, wind); Earl Dumler (oboe, woodwinds, cbass sarrusophone, double bass, wind); Joann McNab (bassoon); Charles Owens (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, wind); Tom "Bones" Malone (trumpet, tuba); Sal Marquez (trumpet); Kenny Shroyer (trombone, euphonium, baritone horn); Glenn Ferris (trombone, euphonium); Bruce Fowler (trombone); Ian Underwood (piano, synthesizer); Tomas Raney (vibraphone, percussion, electronic percussion); Ruth Underwood (marimba, percussion, electronic percussion); Dave Parlato (bass guitar); Jim Gordon (electronic drums).
  • Audio Remasterers: Doug Sax; Robert Hadley.
  • Liner Note Authors: Gail Zappa; Malcolm McNab.
  • Recording information: Boston Music Hall, Boston Massachusetts (10/1972).
  • Photographer: Ed Caraeff.
  • Arranger: Frank Zappa.
  • Wazoo! (2007) -- the third Vaulternative Records package -- is a double-CD set from the Boston Music Hall on September 24, 1972 -- the last performance of the eight-show Grand Wazoo (1972) tour. Although Zappa had worked with large groups of musicians for quite some time, he had rarely (if ever) had the opportunity to tour as part of an orchestrated lineup that featured a dozen-piece horn section with six brass and six woodwinds. Zappa's "Intro Intros" allow the artist to acknowledge the other 19 members of his rockin' teenage combo by name and mention to the assembled audience the "certain disadvantage" that Jay Migliori (flute/tenor sax/woodwinds) finds himself in. Part of his stage gear and setup were destroyed by a speaker tower that collapsed prior to show time. No sooner does Zappa conclude his announcements than the assembled ensemble begin a rapid ascent into a sublime and powerful reading of the title track to the "Grand Wazoo" long player. Keen-eyed Zappaphiles will notice the parenthetical "Think It Over" as part of the composition's name. The reference is a nod to the still-unrealized sci-fi musical that Zappa called "Hunchentoot." Had that project come to fruition, the same piece would have been incorporated as "Think It Over" -- complete with lyrics. The seminal rendition of the rhythmically complex "Approximate" is fascinating for enthusiasts familiar with the path that the song would take over the course of the next few Mothers lineups. Especially the inherent possibility for utter tonal abstractness that Zappa literally wrote as part of the non-melodic structure. Earl Dumler (oboe/contrabass/sarrusophone/woodwinds) and Joanne Caldwell McNabb (bassoon) are noteworthy for their particularly potent input, while the always inventive Ian Underwood (piano/synthesizers) layers on highly charged synth textures that give way to some spirited interplay between Jim Gordon (drums), Tom Raney (vibes/percussion), and Ruth Underwood (marimba/percussion). All the elements converge on the larger-than-life "Big Swifty," revealing the enormous sonic potential that is merely hinted at on the Waka/Jawaka (1972) version. The second disc consists primarily of the half-hour-plus "Adventures of Greggery Peccary." After Zappa's "Ulterior Motive" spoken rap -- in which he gives the band directions and divulges to the audience that he doesn't want the piece to "sleaze off before [their] very ears because "we are recording this show and if it turns out good...that's right, you will all be immortalized." Even without (or perhaps due to the lack of) narration -- which is reprinted in the 16-page liner notes booklet -- the mammoth undertaking is nothing short of epic. All the more so as there are merely a handful of recordings available. The strikingly dark and moody "Movement IV -- The New Brown Clouds" emerges during the final minutes to underscore Zappa's unfailing capabilities as the most visceral and challenging composers/arrangers of the latter 20th century. Undoubtedly the only one of the rock & roll era. The show wraps up with the sole "oldie" -- an arresting and note-perfect "Penis Dimension" from 200 Motels (1971). Always looking ahead, the closer "Variant I Processional March" would resurface several years down the road as "Regyptian Strut" on Sleep Dirt (1979) and then as the ever-so-slightly hyphenated "Re-Gyptian Strut" on Lther (1996). ~ Lindsay Planer
Professional Reviews
The Wire (p.66) - "[T]he fat sound of trumpets and trombones collide like soft clouds into scurrying insectile percussion and Zappa's surgically precise electric guitar excursions."

Down Beat (p.70) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[T]hese performances showcase dense pieces written out in great detail -- featuring an imposing 20-piece band filled with woodwinds, horns and saxophones."
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