Frank Zappa - The Grand Wazoo (1972)

The Grand Wazoo 13:19
For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)     6:06
Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus   2:57
Eat That Question   6:42
Blessed Relief   7:59
Total Time: 37 min, 3 sec

The second jazz album Zappa put together while he was laid up with his London injuries (see Waka/Jawaka review for details). This one features a huge band made up of no less than 21 musicians. Oddly, the Ryko CD spine credits the album to Zappa / The Mothers - while there are a few previous Mothers in the band (Don Preston, Aynsley Dunbar and George Duke), this was pretty much a Zappa "solo" album with a bunch of new musicians. The album cover just says "The Grand Wazoo", with no band name. I wonder why Ryko decided to label the disc Zappa/Mothers.

Anyway, this album has the usual rock instruments plus a bunch of horns and woodwinds. The first time I listened to the disc, it sounded like a high school marching band to me. I'd love to hear that kind of band try to tackle this music.

The title track opens the disc - a wonderful long instrumental similar to the music on Waka / Jawaka. For Calvin is an odd jazz/rock song, with lyrics that tell the tale of two hitchhikers picked up by Cal Shenkel (the artist who created most of the more memorable Zappa album covers). Apparently the two got into Cal's car while he was stopped at a red light, then refused to get out, or even talk. They just sat in the back of the car until Cal got home, and then sat there some more. Eventually they went out, got some food, and resumed their occupancy of the car. Finally they must have gotten bored and disappeared.

Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus is one of the funniest instrumentals I've ever heard. Comedy jazz. You've got to hear it to understand, I can't describe it (other than to just say that it's excellent).

The rest of the disc is more instrumental jazz. Eat That Question is great, with a memorable keyboard introduction. Blessed Relief is one of the most mellow and beautiful tracks Zappa ever composed. While driving home from a distant music festival, a prog-rock fan friend of mine was trying to sleep in the back seat, so I put this track on. He said it was absolutely perfect.

As with Waka / Jawaka, if you're a jazz fan at all (particularly if you're into big band jazz) and you also like rock, then you need to get this album.

Album Cover

Image of the Grand Wazoo album cover