Ranking The Frank Zappa Albums #39 The Yellow Shark

Released in November 1993 The Yellow Shark, was the last Frank Zappa album to appear in his lifetime, almost exactly a month before he died of the cancer from which he had suffered for several years. It features live recordings from the Ensemble Modern’s 1992 performances of Zappa’s compositions. In the album’s notes, Zappa describes The Yellow Shark as one of the most fulfilling projects of his career, and as the best representation of his orchestral works. A bit of background:

Zappa has had a long and often unfilled relationship with orchestras trying to play his ‘serious’ music; both in terms of the complexity and Frank’s demanding style (there’s a couple of excellent chapters in Zappa’s autobiography about this). But in 1991 he was chosen to be one of four featured composers at thd 1992 Frankfurt Festival and was approached by the German chamber ensemble, Ensemble Modern, which was interested in playing his music for the event. Although ill, Zappa invited them to Los Angeles for rehearsals of new compositions and new arrangements of older material. In addition to being satisfied with the ensemble’s performances of his music, Zappa also got along with the musicians, and the concerts in Germany and Austria were set up for the fall. In September 1992, the concerts went ahead as scheduled, but Zappa could only appear at two in Frankfurt due to illness. At the first concert, he conducted the opening Overture, and the final G-Spot Tornado as well as the theatrical Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992 and Welcome to the United States (the remainder of the program was conducted by the ensemble’s regular conductor Peter Rundel). The first concert was aired live by German pay TV channel Premiere, presented by the station’s “Special” host Christian Eckert where Zappa received a 20-minute ovation. It would become his last professional public appearance, as the cancer was spreading to such an extent that he was in too much pain to enjoy an event that he otherwise found “exhilarating”. Recordings from the concerts appeared on The Yellow Shark, Zappa’s last release during his lifetime.

It’s kind of bitter-sweet that Frank had finally found an ensemble that could do his compositions justice and this is the best orchestral representation of his music but it was to be his final completed work before his death. You can hear Zappa’s Stravinsky influences in this work, especially in Times Beach III, and the orchestral renditions of his Mothers work showcase just how much of a great composer he actually was. 3/5

Frank Zappa – conductor, producer, performer
Peter Rundel – conductor, violin
Dietmar Wiesner – flute
Catherine Milliken – oboe, english horn, bass oboe, didjeridu
Roland Diry – clarinet
Wolfgang Stryi – bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet
Veit Scholz – bassoon, contrabassoon
Franck Ollu, Stefan Dohr – french horn
William Formann, Michael Gross – cornet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, trumpet
Uwe Dierksen – trombone, soprano trombone
Michael Svoboda – trombone, euphonium, didjeridu, alphorn
Daryl Smith – tuba
Hermann Kretzschmar – celeste, harpsichord, voices, piano
Ueli Wiget – celeste, harpsichord, harp, piano
Rumi Ogawa-Helferich – cymbalom, percussion
Andreas Böttger – percussion
Detlef Tewes – mandolin
Jürgen Ruck – banjo, guitar
Ellen Wegner – harp
Mathias Tacke, Claudia Sack – violin
Hilary Sturt – violin, voices
Friedemann Dähn – violoncello
Thomas Fichter – contrabass, Fichter electric upright bass
Ensemble Modern – main performer

Published by labarbaazul8067

I'm just a creature from the heap so excuse my savage ignorance.

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