Make A Jazz Noise Here

Frank Zappa

Rykodisc, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Of the three CDs released by Frank Zappa featuring the 1988 touring band that self-destructed after four months, each disc seems to have its own flavor. The first disc, Broadway The Hard Way, tried to be a portrait of the live experience - at least the first set's worth. The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life was a set designed to feature the musical abilities of the group, as well as to dust off some old chestnuts from Zappa's career.

But the third release, Make A Jazz Noise Here, seems to be a collection focusing on the pure musicanship of the band members, with little to no stage banter, precious few vocals and a distinct lack of humor. Sadly, it's those three things that helped to keep the flow of Zappa's live shows moving at a frantic pace, and without them, something is definitely lost in the translation.

Things start off well with one of my favorite tracks (and one of the few vocal performances), "Stinkfoot," but after that, the vocals go away for about 20 minutes, and the listener is left to their own devices to get through pieces like "When Yuppies Go To Hell" and "Fire And Chains". However, hearing the three-song suite of "Let's Make The Water Turn Black," "Harry, You're A Beast" and "The Orange County Lumber Truck" actually make the trip worthwhile.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first half of Make A Jazz Noise Here (which, by the way, has little of a jazz feel to it) is a bit tough to get through, despite old favorites like "King Kong" and "Black Napkins," as well as a rare performance of "Big Swifty," leading the way. More and more, the listener finds themselves wishing that the band would just break into impromptu song to upend the monotony of constant instrumental works.

The thing is, Make A Jazz Noise Here was designed to showcase the virtuosity and ability of the '88 touring band, but this often proves to be a rather difficult set to get through. The one mistake Zappa made is one he had stumbled on throughout his career to this point: in terms of his music, variety is best. Albums featuring nothing but doo-wop songs, guitar solos or instrumental numbers just didn't have the same spark that a disc intermixing the same styles would have.

The second half of this set also proves to be difficult at first, as the listener tries to wade through "Dupree's Paradise," but more comfortable numbers like "The Black Page (New Age Version)," "City Of Tiny Lites," "Stevie's Spanking" (the last two rare vocal performances) and "Strictly Genteel" make this disc a little easier on the ears and the mind. There is no doubt that the band was incredibly adept at performing some of Zappa's most difficult pieces, and there's no question that, had they stayed together on the road, they would have been an unstoppable power.

Had Make A Jazz Noise Here intermixed some of its material with The Best Band You Never Heard Before In Your Life, these two sets would have been the pinnacle of Zappa's recording career. As this one stands, it's adequate to mildly exciting, but missing the spice of life - variety.

2005 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault." All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of the Zappa Family Trust / record label, and is used for informational purposes only.

Rating: B-

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© 2005 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rykodisc, and is used for informational purposes only.