Frank Zappa

The Gumbo Variations

Composed by Frank Zappa

Song Review by

Released on the 1970 LP Hot Rats, "The Gumbo Variations" is a studio jam session. A basic drum beat, a wobbling bass line, a simple melodic frame, and the stage was set for the three main soloists of the day. First, Ian Underwood delivers one of the best saxophone solos he recorded for Zappa: crossing over to free jazz, he steals the spotlight for seven whole minutes. Violinist Sugar Cane Harris comes in next, followed by Zappa himself. There you have it: a straightforward rock jam featuring gifted improvisers. Of course, "The Gumbo Variations" is far from the usual material the man put out, but then Hot Rats is not your typical Zappa record. This piece is one of the reasons why so many people who usually hate the guitarist agree on the qualities of the album. The original LP version of the piece was edited, but when Ryko reissued the album on CD in 1987, it was restored to its 17 minutes. Zappa's love of studio tweaking being legendary, this is most probably the only complete take of a jam session available on his records.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Hot Rats 1969 Rykodisc 16:56
Threesome, Vol. 2 2002 Rykodisc 16:56