Such as its companion-album, The Grand Wazoo, a big-band jazz album that was introduced five months later, Waka/Jawaka  recognizes Zappa shifting significantly into jazz fusion territory, with a nod to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.

Waka/Jawaka album

Anyway, it's the title cut that's the stand out at this point; the band members brought in for Waka/Jawaka are not the outstanding personalities that graced Hot Rats. Captain Beefheart and SugarcaneHarris are replaced by newer faces. Those are Sal Marquez on Trumpet, Tony Duran on slide guitar, Don Preston on Moog and piano with truly original and melodic guitar solo from the “wheelchair-boundmaestro“ himself. The chord changes throughout the solos, and the soloists' seam less adapted to those changes. Overall, they create a tight, well organized group.

The first tune is a 17-minute extravaganza named "Big Swifty," which moves on the intensity of Zappa's guitarand Marquez' horns through enough changes to create a good contemporary jazz suite. It is something to appreciate, even though it could properly be called substandard Miles Davis. It appears quite light-weight for a total side piece. But that's just quibbling. It's good, it stands up to repeated listenings, and is, together with the title cut, one of the best things on the album.

 And then arrives “Your Mouth“ and  “What is this? “. Not only is this tonally completely different from the expansive “Big Swifty“, it also includes lyrics. From fusion, Zappa easily slips into a 12-bar blues piece which includes just a hint of New Orleans gospel. “It Just Might Be a One Shot Deal,” together with slide guitar and a brief burst of music that recalls the themes from a lot of a 1950’s cowboy tv show. At the same time the slide guitar is dreamily continuing the tune toward the end.

Waka/Jawaka is the initial of an extended string of important Zappa albums. Zappa is in his real zone here, both compositionally and instrumentally. However, I can't imagine this album a full-fledged masterwork despite the various moments of undoubted brilliance. It's surely an excellent participation to the style. Experiment with Hot Rats first, however give this a go if you want.

Did you miss something? You are more then welcome to share your thoughts.
Discography-Waka/Jawaka Discography-Waka/Jawaka Reviewed by Klemen Hlupič on 13:20 Rating: 5

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