Monday, March 14, 2016

Jean-Luc Ponty - 1970 - King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa

Jean-Luc Ponty 
King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa 

01. King Kong
02. Idiot Bastard Son
03. Twenty Small Cigars
04. How Would You Like To Have A Head Like That
05. Music For Electric Violin And Low Budget Orchestra
06. America Drinks And Goes Home


Arranged By - Frank Zappa
Bass - Buell Neidlinger (tracks: A1, B1), Wilton Felder (tracks: A2, A3, A4, B2)
Bassoon - Donald Christlieb* (tracks: B1)
Cello - Harold Bemko (tracks: B1)
Composed By - Frank Zappa (tracks: A1, A2, A3, B1, B2), Jean-Luc Ponty (tracks: A4)
Conductor - Ian Underwood (tracks: B1)
Drums - Arthur Dyer Tripp III* (tracks: A1. B1), John Guerin (tracks: A2, A3, A4, B2)
Electric Piano - George Duke
English Horn - Gene Cipriano (tracks: B1)
Flute - Jonathan Meyer (tracks: B1)
French Horn - Arthur Maebe* (tracks: B1), Vincent DeRosa (tracks: B1)
Guitar - Frank Zappa (tracks: A4)
Oboe - Gene Cipriano (tracks: B1)
Piano - George Duke
Saxophone - Ernie Watts (tracks: A2, A3, A4, B2)
Saxophone [Tenor] - Ian Underwood (tracks: A1)
Vibraphone - Gene Estes (tracks: A1)
Viola - Milton Thomas (tracks: B1)
Violin [Electric] - Jean-Luc Ponty

Made in the wake of Ponty’s appearance on Zappa’s jazz-rock masterpiece Hot Rats, these 1969 recordings were significant developments in both musicians’ careers.
- Steve Huey/AMG (4/5 Stars)

King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa (or simply King Kong) is an album by French jazz fusion artist Jean-Luc Pontyfirst released in 1970 on Liberty Records’ World Pacific Records subsidiary label. The album contains numerous selections Zappa had previously recorded either with the Mothers of Invention or under his own name, including:”King Kong,” originally included on Zappa’s 1969 album Uncle Meat
 “Idiot Bastard Son,” from the Mothers’ 1968 album We’re Only in It for the Money
 “Twenty Small Cigars,” from Zappa’s 1970 album Chunga’s Revenge
 “America Drinks and Goes Home,” from the Mothers’ 1967 album Absolutely FreeGeorge Duke, who would eventually join Zappa and Ponty in the Mothers, is featured on piano on all tracks. Ernie Watts is featured on alto and tenor saxophone on all tracks except for “Music for Violin and Low Budget Orchestra”. Zappa himself plays guitar on one selection, and Mothers members Ian Underwood (tenor sax) and Art Tripp (drums) contribute to the album as well.

JEAN-LUC PONTY isn't only a virtuoso violinist but also one of the greatest Fusion composers who blended different genres with great success and a pioneer of the electric violin, his solo works include very different albums as the brilliant and almost symphonic "Aurora" or the less inspired Afro Jazz oriented "Tchokola", in other words not only a prolific but also a very eclectic and talented Progressive musician.

JEAN-LUC PONTY was born in Avranches France on September 29,1942 started his violin studies at the age of five with his father who was Director of the school of music in Avranches and a violin teacher as well, at the age of 13 left school to fully dedicate to the music, later (At the age of 15) was admitted in the Paris Conservatoire graduating two years later with the institution's highest award, Premier Prix.

Being Classical trained, joined CONCERTS LAMOUREUX ORCHESTRA where due to the influence of some friends got interested in Jazz. Incredibly his first works in Jazz were done playing the tenor Saxophone until 1962 when he returned to his first love the violin.

1969 was an important year for the 27 old musician who joins FRANK ZAPPA for the release of "Hot Rats" nd then THE GEORGE DUKE TRIO for about a year. In 1970 returns to France in order to form The JEAN-LUC PONTY EXPERIENCE until 1972 when comes back to USA to rejoin THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION.

In 1974 he's recruited BY JOHN MCLAUGHLIN'S MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA with whom he releases "Apocalypse" and "Visions of Emerald Beyond" playing a very important role in both albums.

Even though he made a lot of independent projects before (like "Jazz Long Playing" in 1964, "Sunday" Walk 1967 or "The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio" in 1969) plus combined efforts with STEPHANE GRAPPELLI and many others

His Progressive solo career starts in December 1975 with the first of four amazing releases, the incredible "Aurora" an album in which he blends perfectly not only Jazz and Progressive Rock as most Fusion artists do, but also adds clear touches of Symphonic Progressive mostly echoes from his early and complete Classical formation, a real gem that everybody should have.

During the next three years he completes his essential tetralogy that includes not only the previously mentioned "Aurora", but also "Imaginary Voyage", "Enigmatic Ocean" and "Cosmic Messenger", also transcendental for the history of Progressive Rock.

From that point he starts to experiment with Euro Pop, Afro Jazz and even getting pretty close to New Age in some cases, most of this albums are incredibly experimental creating patterns of electronic sounds with the help of sequencers.

In the early JLP discography, KK is a sort of an exception, because it doesn't resemble much the music of the albums that surround it chronologically, not only because it features and interprets only Frank Zappa's music, but it veers away from the typical jazz he was playing, such as with Stephane Grapelli. Clearly this album is almost a Francesco album, but with the conspicuous absence of Zappa himself (except on the only Ponty composition), but with many of the master's side acolytes, including Duke, Underwood, Tripp and Guerin.
If the music's scope ranges from modern contemporary music though jazz (we are on a Blue Note label after all) until some good jazz-rock, we're still relatively far from JLP's signature JR/F sound of the second half of the 70's. The opening side's four shorter (everything being relative) are often in the instrumental jazz or JR/F mode relying on complex (but not too much) construction, where JLP's sometime slightly dissonant (or disaccorded) violin is obviously in the forefront, backed by duke's electric piano and sometimes by Underwood's or Watt's sax. Some classic Zappa tunes, like the title track and the bettered Idiot Bastard Son are quite pleasant, that are liberated/freed from all of the Mother-esque lunacies and dubious humorous twists and sometimes improved by Ponty's new interpretations. Ponty's sole track is fitting quite fine in the Zappa realm, but is also the closest to his future sound later on in the decade. It's probably my preferred track on the present album.

The flipside is definitely more difficult, with Frank's command of an orchestra composition (conducted by Underwood), one that Francesco would revisit in the later 70's on his own album (Studio Tan, if memory serves well), but sonically we are in Stravinsky territory and the music doesn't flow nearly as fluidly as the previous tracks. The closing America drinks is more like a ragtime tune, and is a bit anecdotic.

Certainly not Ponty's better album, nor is it one of the better zappa albums, King Kong does remains an essential piece of music that should certainly be heard by those who have some problems integrating the Mothers' chaotic gooferies on the Zappa discography. Here, we are rid of these sometimes insufferable mannerisms and we are therefore much more at ease to appreciate the compositional genius of Francesco.

1 comment: