Frank Zappa: Waka / Jawaka


Waka / Jawaka


Frank Zappa (guitar)


Waka / Jawaka (Rykodisc 10516)

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Frank Zappa (guitar), Don Preston (piano, synthesizer), Sal Marquez (trumpet, flugelhorn, chimes), Billy Byers (trombone, baritone horn), Ken Shroyer (trombone, baritone horn), Mike Altschul (piccolo, bass flute, bass clarinet, tenor sax, baritone sax), Aynsley Dunbar (drums),

Alex Dmochowski [aka ‘Erroneous’] (bass)


Composed by Frank Zappa


Recorded: Los Angeles, April-May, 1972


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

The happy marriage of rock and horns lasted about a decade. You can date its first stirrings from the formation of the two mega-groups Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago in 1967. And its symbolic close came with the release of Steely Dan's Aja LP in 1977 -- arriving in the bins at almost the same time that Chicago (which had once been an exciting ensemble) shifted gears to dishing out icky-sweet puff-pop like "If You Leave Me Now." Some of the lesser known masterpieces of this genre include the exciting band Chase, which lasted three years before ending in tragedy with the death of Bill Chase and three of his bandmates in a plane crash; and (of course) the great Zappa-plus-horns work on Waka / Jawaka. Listening to this stellar 11-minute track, it's hard to understand why the rock-and-horns combo ever went out of fashion. Zappa certainly thrived in this setting, both as composer and soloist. There is no schtick or schlock or other crazy sch-sch-stuff here, just a soaring instrumental workout with a big dose of Zappa's guitar. If they ever release a compilation called The Serious Side of Frank Zappa, this could serve as opening track.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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