Finally released on a pair of CDs in 1997 (26 years after it's initial release on vinyl), 200 MOTELS is the soundtrack to Frank Zappa's wacky 1971 motion picture of the same name, which starred Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, among others. Although it enjoyed success as a "midnight movie" in the '70s/early '80s, 200 MOTELS is a difficult movie to comprehend, since the storyline is very abstract (some have hinted that it was made up on the spot!). But even when his music is difficult to understand, Zappa includes many interesting twists and turns, and the soundtrack for 200 MOTELS is no different.
Frank Zappa's music is not easy to convert to the stage of the jazz band. Although Zappa's zany compositions have always attracted some of the more adventurous jazz players, the actual jazz content of the tunes is minimal. Italian keyboardist Riccardo Fassi takes his Tankio Band of twelve players plus selected guests through a dozen Zappa charts with mixed results. Curiously, Fassi is most successful when he diverges from the structures of the tunes. When he sticks too closely to the melodies and chords, translating them into Kentonesque big band blasts, the results are less satisfying. The quality of the soloists vary, but guest trumpeter Flavio Boltro, accordionist Antonello Salis, and band member alto saxophonist Sandro Satta dish up some of the most compelling individual work.
Not half as well known as he should be, Edwards is a Delta- born jazz saxophonist who impresses for his post-bop inventiveness and his predisposition to the blues. Allowed a rare feature date, he gives lessons in how to delve into a melody for meaning and then express the resulting revelations in down-home terms-relish the poetic beauty of the title song. Tom Waits, an original, molds his vocal excesses into triumphant blues declarations in Edwards's stunning composition "I'm Not Your Fool Anymore." Indeed.