Frank Zappa

Waka/Jawaka

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When Frank Zappa found himself stuck in a wheelchair for most of the year 1972 (after a "fan" pushed him off the stage in December of the previous year), he relieved his band (including singers Flo & Eddie) of its duties and turned to studio work. One of the first things he tried was to write jazz fusion music scored for wider instrumentation than an average rock band. Waka/Jawaka was conceived in parallel to The Grand Wazoo, but with fewer players. The album, released in July 1972, is comprised of two extended instrumental pieces and two shorter songs. "Big Swifty," a theme-and-solos showcase, would become a live favorite, but the highlight came in the form of the orgiastic title track, recorded with ex-Mothers of Invention keyboardist Don Preston, trumpeter Sal Marquez, trombonists Bill Byers and Ken Shroyer, saxophonist Mike Altschul, bassist Erroneous, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The songs, never performed live, feel like filler material. Waka/Jawaka was Zappa's second solo album and is occasionally referred to as "Hot Rats II" (the handles of the faucets on the cover artwork show the words "hot" and "rats" instead of "hot" and "cold"). His writing and recording technique had matured a lot in very little time. The dirty blues jamming of the 1969 LP was replaced by clean, crisp jazz improvisations -- no need to say this was also an abrupt change in style from the Mothers' 1969-1971 incarnation. But this album was only transitional: Zappa's big-band stylings would really flourish in The Grand Wazoo a few months later.

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