BAND MEMBERS- FZ, Malcolm McNab (d-trumpet), Sal Marquez (b-flat trumpet), Tom Malone (b-flat trumpet, tuba), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Glenn Ferris (trombone), Kenny Shroyer (trombone), Jay Migliori (flute, tenor sax, and others), Mike Altschul (piccolo, bass clarinet, and other wind instruments), Ray Reed (tenor sax, clarinet, and others), Charles Owens (soprano and alto sax, others), Joanne McNab (bassoon), Earl Dumler (oboe, sarrusophone, others), Jerry Kessler (electric cello), Ian Underwood (piano and synthesizer), Dave Parlato (bass), Tony Duran (slide and rhythm guitar), Jim Gordon (drums), Tom Raney (vibes and percussion), Ruth Underwood (marimba and percussion)
DATES- September 10th through September 24th
COUNTRIES- 5 ( US and Europe)
# OF DIFFERENT SONGS PLAYED- 14
AVERAGE SHOW LENGTH- 85
AVERAGE # OF FZ SOLOS PER SHOW- 2
SONGS FZ WOULD SOLO IN- Approximate, Big Swifty, Blues for a Minute, Chunga's Revenge, Improvisation, The Grand Wazoo
COMMENTS ON FZ SOLOS- Frank did not solo all that much this tour, averaging a measly two solos per show, one in "Big Swifty" and one in "The Grand Wazoo", with only an occasional "Approximate" and only one performance of "Chunga's Revenge". Of the solos I have heard, none of them are that great, but they are not what I would call bad. Interesting outings, and serving as a nice contrast to the parade of horn solos that we get, but nothing special.
SONGS THAT FZ USUALLY SOLOED IN BUT NOT ON THIS TOUR- none
NEW SONGS ON TOUR- Approximate, Big Swifty, For Calvin and His Next Two Hitchhikers, The Grand Wazoo, Greggary Peccary, Low Budget Dog Meat, New Brown Clouds, Regyptian Strut
MONSTER SONGS- When you have a band this big, you do not want to go anywhere near full-blown improv. While the results could possibly be interesting, I doubt they would be very musical. With this in mind, Frank tries some full-blown improv nonetheless, commencing the 9/15 exercise by saying, "Let's hope that its musical." And surprisingly enough, it is, having a laid-back, middle eastern feel to it, highlighting an exotic Frank guitar solo, a spacey Ian keyboard outing, and the talents of several other band members. A worthy excursion into the heart of pure improvisation. Apart from this, the only other possible Monster Song we get is the 9/23 performance of "Approximate", which contains the "Grand Wazoo Comic Book Extravaganza", plus a diverse and fully satisfying parade of solos. This is without a doubt the greatest performance of "Approximate" ever, though I am not sure that it qualifies as a true Monster song. Definitely worth hearing, though.
OVERVIEW- I am not sure how to evaluate this tour. I love to listen to the shows that I have, along with the miscellaneous filler I have here and there. "The Grand Wazoo" is hands down my favorite Zappa album, and I love to hear this ridiculously huge band tackle the title tune and "Calvin and His Next Two Hitchhikers" (the 9/16 "Wazoo" has one of the sickest horn solos I've ever heard). But as a tour, it's really hard to judge these set of shows. To begin with, there are only 8 of them. Frank determined the setlist for each show prior to the tour, and essentially the band rehearsed the 11 songs Frank had chosen. Ultimately, we end up with one extra tune thrown in ("Chunga's Revenge"), plus some random improvisation and humor. For the most part, however, we get these 11 songs, with three of them only appearing sporadically throughout the tour. Frank's guitar playing is here, but not in anyway essential, and I personally find the majority of the horn solos to be much more interesting than Frank's playing. But I love the horn playing, I love the songs, and I love the arrangements of the tunes (the instrumental "Penis Dimension-> Regyptian Strut" encores I find to be both interesting and hilarious). Personally, I love these shows, but I understand that as a tour, it does not really measure up as being great. Too short, too narrow a selection of songs,and no better than average Frank guitar playing. If you really like "Waka/Jawaka" and "The Grand Wazoo", you will probably love this tour. If not, you could probably do without it. Does any of this help?
APPROXIMATE- This is what this song should sound like. As we all know, there is no actual "song" here, just an approximation of a tune denoted by the places where the musicians play the pitch of their choice, with certain pitches being predetermined for the sake of contrast. But as we all now, every performance of this song has always sounded the same, and thus essentially served as a competely written song. On this tour, however, we get the organized chaos that Frank was aiming for, and it is quite different, though easily recognizable. After the approximated head, we get a somewhat mellow solo section, which includes horn solos, Ian on keyboards, a rather lengthy percussion/drum duet, and the occasional Frank solo. All of this includes some random orchestrating by Frank, who injects healthy doses of the main theme throughout the solos. This theme is also returned to and played once through after the solos, and serves as the ending to the tune. During the 9/23 performance, we get an extra bonus "Comic Book" section, in which the band members read from random sections of previously distributed comic books, while accompanied by Frank-led audience noises and randomly orchestrated band parts.
BIG SWIFTY- This is the "spiffed up a little bit" version. What we get here is the head of the tune, essentially as it appears on "Waka/Jawaka", with some additional woodwind and percussion parts (the "spiffing up"), followed by an extended solo section. Unlike the album version, however, we do not get the "Bitches Brew" type jam that graces "Waka/Jawaka". Instead, we get your standard rotating solo format, over a more hyper, upbeat vamp. We get several horn solos and a Frank guitar workout before returning to the closing theme, which is essentially performed as on the album, minus the ending improvisation.
BLUES FOR A MINUTE- A slow blues jam, centered around a restrained Zappa guitar solo, that serves as a short prelude to the "Penis Dimension" encore from 9/15. Would probably be more aptly titled "Blues for Two-and-a-half Minutes."
CHUNGA'S REVENGE- Essentially performed as on "Chunga's Revenge", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's quite lengthy guitar solo. Frank chose to use a smaller band for this encore treat, and thus we get the leaner, meaner "Chunga", played without the brass and woodwind sections.
DOG MEAT- This is the medley consisting of "Dog Breath Variations" and Uncle Meat". It is esentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and minus the opening guitar riff from "Dog Breath". Originally, this was conceived as a three part medley, with "Low Budget Symphony Orchestra" comprising the first part. This original medley, however, only lasts for the first two performances.
FOR CALVIN AND HIS NEXT TWO HITCHHIKERS- Essentially performed as on "The Grand Wazoo", with the standard deviation coming in the occasional random blowing, and a somwhat lengthy horn solo in the middle of the tune.
GRAND WAZOO, THE- "There is no scientific explanation for this, it is simply a shuffle". Thanks, Frank. Essentially performed as on "The Grand Wazoo", with the standard deviation coming in the solos. The tune begins with the opening riff and solo as found on the album, only this time we get a horn solo and no FZ. After the solo, the tune proceeds as normal, with Duran's slide solo still intact. In the lengthy solo section, we get a couple of horn solos, and a Frank solo, before arriving at the second half of the tune. This half is also performed as on the album, with a short Underwood keyboard solo in the appropriate spot
GREGGARY PECCARY- This is basically an instrumental version of the "Studio Tan" track, minus one key musical section. As it is performed on this tour, Frank has divided it up into 4 movements- 1) GP going to work; 2) GP inventing the calendar (Bruce Fowler claims that this music does not appear in the studio version of "Greggary Peccary". I must admit to a dislike of this studio track, and a laziness in not doing an A/B with this version and the album version. Does anyone know if Bruce knows what he is talking about?); 3) GP being attacked by henchmen; and 4) GP meeting the greatest philosopher known to man (that Quentin guy). This fourth part is titled "New Brown Clouds", and appears as its own song, separate from the other parts, at the first two shows. According to the program Frank wrote for this tour, "New Brown Clouds" was intended to be used as the show opener at each show (with GP the show closer), but this only lasted 2 shows. All 4 parts basically correspond to their respective parts from the studio version, allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, and with the standard deviation coming in the short solo in part 3. During each performance, Frank would narrate the story between the different parts, typically telling the audience to "Shut up!" while doing so :-). Note the conspicuous absence of the Steno Pool/Big Swifty section, possibly the best music in the song. Oddly enough, this music would not premiere until the following tour, when it would appear as part one of the "Farther O'Blivion" medley.
IMPROVISATION- On 9/15, Frank decides that he and the band are simply going to make something up, hoping "that it is musical". Amazingly enough, they succeed in their endeavor, creating a relaxed, rather exotic sounding tune showcasing the soloing talents of Frank, Ian, and several of the other band members. As the jam nears its end, the playing increases in its intensity. Several horn parts flavor the ending solos, the rhythm section begins picking up speed, and the tune builds to a frenzied, near chaotic, guitar laced ending. An excellent foray into the dangerous world of full-blown improv.
LOW BUDGET DOG MEAT- "Just like all big bands, we have a medley." And yes they do, comprised of the FZ written Ponty tune "Low Budget Symphony Orchestra", "Dog Breath Variations", and "Uncle Meat". I have purposely avoided the Ponty album in my life, and thus cannot testify to the similarities of these tunes. I do, however, recognize the majority of the composition as being from "Revised Music for Guitar and Low Budget Orchestra". The remainder of the tune is essentially performed as in the "Dog Meat" medley from YCDTOSA Volume II, allowing for the obvious differences in instrumentation, and minus the opening guitar theme from "Dog Breath". This medley only lasts two performances, before the "Low Budget" portion is dropped and only the "Dog Meat" remains.
NEW BROWN CLOUDS- This tune appears as the closing segment of the "Studio Tan" version of "Greggary Peccary", and represents the fourth part of GP as it is performed on this tour. According to the program Frank wrote for this tour, this song was originally intended to be used as the opening number of each show, with the remaining three parts of GP being used as the closing number. This only lasts two shows, however, from which point on "New Brown Clouds" appears as part four of the four part "Greggary Peccary". The tune is essentially performed as on "Studio Tan", with what I believe are added parts throughout the tune. I have yet to do an A/B with the different versions, so I am not sure.
PENIS DIMENSION- "A nice subdued waltz." This is a condensed, instrumental version of the "200 Motels" track. As it is arranged here, the song is only around 3 minutes long, with a short horn solo in the middle section.
REGYPTIAN STRUT- Taken at a ridiculously brisk pace, this version is essentially performed as on "Sleep Dirt", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation. We get some random spurts of horn throughout the tune, but no guitar.
ROOM WHO DID IT ACTS 1-3- A little bit of the Frank randomness sneaks into a show. Prior to the beginning of the show on 9/23, Frank prepares the audience for an upcoming song by teaching them three cues and the corresponding sound effects. Then, during "Approximate", Frank has the band members read random sections from previously distributed comic books, while the audience responds to Frank's cues. This occurs in the middle of the solo section of "Approximate", and the "Room Who Did It" title refers to this random madness.
THINK IT OVER- The early name for "The Grand Wazoo", referring to the lyrics that Frank originally conceived for this tune.
VARIANT PROCESSIONAL MARCH- The early name for "Regyptian Strut", which would probably be more appropriate as "Variant Processional Stampede" since the tune is taken at such a fast pace.
-Charles Ulrich's excellent in-depth Grand Wazoo analysis