Song: Zoot Allures
Artist: Frank Zappa
The late Frank Zappa possessed an incisive mind and rapier wit, especially when it came to social commentary. But for all that, he was often at his best when he simply shut up and played his guitar. His 1976 release Zoot Allures is from the one and only Warner Bros album - a departure from his regular label DiscReet Records, thanks to an acrimonious lawsuit with his former manager. Whatever tensions Zappa was experiencing in his professional musical life are not reflected in the album’s title track, a self-contained, lazy blossom of a piece almost regal in its indifference to the cares of the world. This blissfully exotic instrumental is painted with the striking hues of luscious, complex chords and informed by quintessentially Zappa-esque arrangements - muscular, fluid, ambitious and deeply committed. Stylistically it straddles some fine-grained, invisible line between jazz and lounge. It has all the subtle persuasion of fine ambient music yet it’s packed with detail and nuance; there are plenty of open spaces permeating Zoot Allures, reinforcing the impression of relaxed confidence and, as strange as it sounds, disciplined whimsy. Zappa’s guitar is the star of the show but his emphasis on strong ensemble performance is reflected in the lineup - huge props to his long-time drummer Terry Bozio, Dave Parlato on bass, Ruth Underwood on Marimba and Lu Ann Nel on harp.
A vivid work oozing effortlessly into a mysterious elsewhere.