Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Zappadan 2013 Zappa In New York 1978 Wazoo 2007

Ah, the festival of Zappadan is upon us once again. Celebrate (or don't) the life and works of one of America's greatest modern-day composers and general all-around thinker.

Take your time and spend these next 17 days however you want to. Frank might have wanted it that way. Or maybe he'd think Zappadan foolish. Too bad he's not here to let us know. He would have been 70 this December 21. In keeping with the spirit of Zappadan, how you choose to celebrate this wonderful time is entirely up to you. If someone tells you you're doing Zappadan wrong, you can be sure they don't get it.

Me, I like to mention his music, which I mostly love, and since I talk about music here at this blog, it makes sense. This year I added two Zappa titles to my collection. They are Wazoo and Zappa In New York. Both are live recordings, and both are good, and on some level, unique.

 Zappa In New York boasts the Saturday Night Live horn section and Randy and Mike Brecker. Recorded Christmas week 1976, it's jammed with plenty of fine moments, including super hot instrumentals (The Purple Lagoon, The Black Page, Manx Needs Women, Sofa) and outrageous humor (The Legend Of The Illinois Enema Bandit, Punky's Whips, Titties And Beer). It also includes guest narrations from Don Pardo himself. The core band includes the incomparable duo of drummer Terry Bozio and vibes player Ruth Underwood. Generally a solid live outing, much of which was intended for Zappa's Lather release.

Wazoo is a very very special thing indeed. Recorded in 1972 at the end of a very brief tour, it features the 20-piece Mothers Of Invention/Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo band, a group of Zappa regulars augmented by ace studio musicians that only toured because, well, because Zappa asked them. Who could turn that gig down?

This is Zappa's big band concept executed magnificently in a live setting. The live version here of The Grand Wazoo is thrilling, as is Approximate, in an exceptionally deep reading. The 32-minute The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary in four movements is fairly different from the later 1978 studio recording, and every bit as good. The recording is clean and neat, and sounds like it was taken right off the mixing board.

I really can't describe how incredible this band is, and this stuff isn't easy. Or how magnificent these compositions are. That said, this isn't for the Dinah-Mo Hum crowd. This is serious music, and you should probably sit down and not operate heavy machinery.

Happy Zappadan, one and all!

Previous Zappa posts here.

No comments:

Post a Comment