Frank Zappa
(Ryko 10516)

I'd like to dedicate this review to Bonedoggie … the guy that sat across the bus from me on drum corps tour in '92. Bonedoggie had the largest collection of Frank Zappa paraphernalia to ever grace the overhead luggage bin of a drum corps tour bus. He so kindly let me borrow various items (after they fell on me at least once a week) during the long hours spent on the bus between shows.

It was through these late night listening sessions that I learned to love Frank Zappa for his quirks and genius. Kumbayah, Bonedoggie. Waka/Jawaka is like a mediocre sandwich served on really great bread.

"Big Swifty" opens the album with a well crafted multi-metric foray into modern Big Band jazz styles. Using multiple harmonic devices, Zappa settles into a Latin style groove which features extended trumpet and guitar solos which explore several styles of jazz, from cool to bebop. Some lyrical close harmony between trumpet and guitar is introduced (I'm bothered a little by the intonation at this point) which leads into a very free flowing multi-metric section which ends the piece. I like "Big Swifty" very much … one of my favorite Zappa creations.

The second tune … is … OK. Not one of my favorite Zappa tunes … in fact, I normally skip that track when listening to this album. "It Just Might Be a One-Shot Deal" has a bad start in my opinion, but redeems itself during the guitar solo and then kind of melts into a bluesy variation of the main melody and finally ends. Again, not one of my favorites.

HOWEVER, "Waka/Jawaka" is one of my favorite Zappa works. A fine example of modern Big Band jazz, this track exhibits melodic lines in the horn section which intertwine nicely with the once-again multi-metric rhythm section. This track is very well composed and features some tasty playing, especially from drummer Aynsley Dunbar who appears to be channeling Tony Williams.

Overall, with the two middle tracks removed, Waka/Jawaka is a pretty good jazz album. Had Zappa chosen two jazzier pieces to stick in the middle, it would be darn close to perfect.

Review by SIL