During his incredibly prolific career, Frank Zappa played many different roles. From sarcastic rock and roller, to avant-garde composer and from tongue-in-cheek jokester to jazz-fusion frontman. The variety within his body of work was a conscious choice; a defiant refusal to follow expectations. He openly admitted roping in listeners with silliness to expose them to more serious compositions they might not have heard otherwise.
In 1971, Zappa was attacked onstage by a fan, and knocked into the orchestra pit in front of the stage. He suffered serious fractures to his back, neck, legs, as well as head trauma and a crushed larynx. This injury forced him off the road for over half a year. During this time period, Zappa recorded two albums of jazz-fusion influenced mostly instrumental work. The first one, Waka/Jawaka, featured a smaller ensemble, where the second, The Grand Wazoo, was performed by a band similar to the "big bands" popular in the earlier part of the century.
The Grand Wazoo (on the CD reissue, anyway) opens with what is obviously supposed to be the centerpiece of the album, the title track. The song is a 13 minute masterpiece filled with quirky melody lines, fantastic guitar work, and a magnificent, expressive horn solo that spans most of the track.
This is not to say the rest of the album isn't just as fantastic. From Buddy Rich inspired sections that clip by at break-neck pace, rich with electric piano solos and mind boggling rock guitar leads, to beautiful, soothing moments ("Blessed Relief"), The Grand Wazoo has a little of everything, and the band shines fantastically. They are so tight, that you would think they had been playing together for years, and not just met.
His catalog may seem a bit daunting and a not just a little unaccessable to some, but the brave of heart are rewarded greatly for diving in. The Grand Wazoo is a great starting place for those more interested in Zappa's work as a composer and jazz musician.