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Jean-Luc Ponty - King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa  CD (album) cover

KING KONG: JEAN-LUC PONTY PLAYS THE MUSIC OF FRANK ZAPPA

Jean-Luc Ponty

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.93 | 37 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars 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.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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