Director: Egbert van Hees
Time: 90 mins
Eye of Sound: Recorded in 1992 in Frankfurt before an ecstatic audience, The Yellow Shark features a less popular facet of Zappa's repertoire. His commitment with avant-garde and "modern classical" composition was evident since his first albums with the Mothers, but chance, market cruelty, and questionable aesthetic options by Zappa himself condemned him to be remembered mostly as a prankster and a "guitar-hero" for stoners with a penchant for difference. But Zappa was much more than that, of course, and this concert, combining new compositions and new arrangements for older material, must be considered as essential as his first Mothers adventures or his 80s incursions into synth-based musical utopias. Tremendously difficult to play, Zappa's compositions are here performed with an alarming ease, rigor and focus by the renowned Ensemble Modern: just have a listen at G-Spot Tornado, composed for Synclavier and part of the magnificently surreal Jazz from Hell synth-album, and see how technically demanding changes of tone, breath and color are dealt with by this strangely swinging Ensemble. There are (only) two typically Zappaesque takes on brechtian satire, but throughout the concert it is rewarding to see a contemporary music ensemble that not only knows how to swing but also to tackle Zappa's theatrical antics. More lively, organic and "real" than Boulez's take on FZ's universe, this Yellow Shark just might be the definitive orchestral Zappa experience.