Frank Zappa & The Ensemble Modern: The Yellow Shark

By Stuart Maconie

Q, January 1994

Frank Zappa & The Ensemble Modern
The Yellow Shark


Plenty of rock musicians have dabbled with “serious” music but the results have been variable to say the least. Keith Emerson emerged with dubious credit, whereas Deep Purple were scraping egg off their faces for years afterwards. Frank Zappa's understanding of the classical avant-garde is in no doubt. His own compositions in this vein reflect a prodigious and quixotic mind that can handle polyrhythms, weird time signatures, radical sonorities and still chuck in scabrous satire. The Yellow Shark is a 90-minute programme of 19 selections that display an imaginative sweep through string quartets, brash, lurid Ivesian marches and shifts easily from the most taxing atonalism to toe-tapping rock tunes. The Ensemble Modern's playing is exemplary, even though Zappa's music has a grotesque, sarcastic quality that can pall. But the concluding piece G Spot Tornado is just fabulous
and fully deserves the lunatic enthusiasm the German audience respond with. ★★★

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