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Jean-Luc Ponty

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Jean-Luc Ponty King Kong - Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa album cover
3.94 | 66 ratings | 7 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. King Kong (4:54)
2. Idiot Bastard Son (4:00)
3. Twenty Small Cigars (5:35)
4. How Would You Like to Have a Head Like That (7:14)
5. Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra (19:20)
6. America Drinks and Goes Home (2:39)

Total Time 43:42

Line-up / Musicians

- Jean-Luc Ponty / electric violin, baritone violectra

- Frank Zappa / guitar (4), arrangements
- George Duke / piano (5) & electric piano
- Ian Underwood / conductor (5), tenor saxophone (1)
- Ernie Watts / alto & tenor saxophones (2-4,6)
- Vincent DeRosa / French horn & descant (5)
- Arthur Maebe / French horn (5)
- Donald Christlieb / bassoon (5)
- Jonathan Meyer / flute (5)
- Gene Cipriano / English horn & oboe (5)
- Harold Bemko / cello (5)
- Milton Thomas / viola (5)
- Gene Estes / percussion & vibraphone (1,6)
- Buell Neidlinger / bass (1,5)
- Wilton Felder / Fender bass (2-4,6)
- Art Tripp / drums (1,5)
- John Guerin / drums (2-4,6)

Releases information

Artwork: Ron Wolin

LP World Pacific Jazz ‎- ST-20172 (1970, US)
LP Liberty ‎- LBS 83375 (1970, UK)

CD Blue Note ‎- CDP 0777 7 89539 (1993, US)

Thanks to ivan_2068 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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JEAN-LUC PONTY King Kong - Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa ratings distribution

(66 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(61%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

JEAN-LUC PONTY King Kong - Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In my vinyl collection, this record is filed under the "Frank Zappa" section. I always believed this album is a Frank Zappa's one, not a Ponty's one: indeed, it is Frank who composed the music here.

The involved style is a mix of fusion, experimental jazz & RIO/Avant Garde music, made of saxes, piano and classical acoustic instruments, like cello, viola, French & English horn, bassoon, oboe and obviously violins played by Ponty himself. Many tracks can be found on some Zappa's albums.

The side 2 contains one track, which clearly has a RIO/Avant garde style with some jazz/fusion elements: "Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra"; this track is partly covered on the Zappa's "Studio Tan" album; obviously, I prefer this more modern version, but the original version on Ponty's record here, lasting nearly 20 minutes, contains VERY impressive & addictive parts, although sometimes dissonant & experimental: some will recognize a bit covered in Zappa's "Bogus Pomp" track ("Orchestral Favorites"). The track "Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra" finishes with a more joyful note, as reveals George Duke's secure rhythmic piano.

The side 1 is more jazz rock/fusion-oriented: it contains the excellent "The idiot bastard son" track, taken from the earlier Zappa's "We're only in it for the money" album; it also contains the wonderful "20 small cigars", covered a bit later on the Zappa's "Chunga's Revenge" album.

It is clear here that Ponty proudly plays in the foreground: indeed his violin takes a huge part of the music, despite the compositions strongly remain Zappa-oriented. For 1970, this was excellent!!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Who is Jean Luc-Ponty? Well, he's a violinist who gained notoriety after many stints with the Mothers of Invention, and this 1969 album proves his connection with the group, with the entire album (save for one piece) being slightly re-arranged Frank Zappa songs. The selection of Mothers songs is also quite nice, ranging from King Kong to Idiot Bastard Son, which are both classic Zappa songs. What's great about this album is that most of the Mothers of Invention actually help him along the way, so the likes of George Duke, Art Tripp, Ian Underwood, and even FZ himself during the sole Ponty composition of the album and they perform wonderfully on this album (mainly because they know the songs themselves, but the jazzier arrangements do make these songs a bit different from the MoI songs themselves).

The album opens with the eponymous and infamous Zappa song King Kong. From the get go, there's a more tight and cohesive feel to the overall sound. George Duke is fantastic on the electric piano, giving precise and frenetic runs on top of the tight rhythmic groove courtesy of Buell Neidlinger and Art Tripp. Ponty adds a new dimension to the sound with his consistent violin melody, in all it's a very different feeling piece than the classic Mothers song. Idiot Bastard Son follows with a nice main sax melody from Ernie Watts and a strong bass performance from Wilton Felder. Ponty comes in towards the middle once again giving a dynamic and frenetic violin solo over the nice chord progression on the electric piano from George Duke. Twenty Small Cigars has the feeling that Ponty would convey in his later years, an aura of mystery and a great majestic feeling to go with it.

How Would You Like to Have a Head Like That? is the sole Ponty composition and it's the only to feature the guitar wizardry of Frank Zappa. It begins with a swirling Jean Luc Ponty violin melody and the groove between Wilton Felder and John Guerin is quite nice. Later on, George Duke and Zappa exchange solos and offer a nice dynamic between Ponty's violin antics. Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra would later get abridged and renamed to fit the guitar on Zappa's later album Studio Tan. The song on this album, though, clocks in at just under 20 minutes and runs a gauntlet of various horns and wind instruments. It goes through many majestic, mysterious, frantic, and uplifting moods and for the most part it is a quite brilliant instrumental with great percussion and drums from Art Tripp. But then, it does drag towards the middle and it could have used a minor amount of editing to keep the flow nice and consistent. America Drinks and Goes Home ends the album with a nice rendition of this classic Mothers piece. It has a nice ragtime lounge feel and the horns are brilliant as well as the dynamic and majestic piano performance from George Duke. A fitting ending to say the least.

In the end, King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa is a great album, though not without it's flaws, which mainly lie in the boring middle sections of Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra. If you're a fan of Frank Zappa, then you'll probably enjoy Zappa's many many contributions to the album. If you're a fan of Ponty, then why not get this album as it is a connection to his roots and how he got his claim to fame (in a way, that is). 4/5.

Review by The Owl
4 stars One of the most unique and sadly underrated items in Jean Luc Ponty's recorded output.

Under the auspices of one Frank Zappa (who wrote everything on here except How Would You Like To Have a Head Like That?), Ponty reinterpreted Zappa's material with great warmth, wit and understanding while genuinely making these pieces his own. King Kong gets things off to a rip-roaring start with violin and vibes spinning off the twisted pentatonic melody into a wonderful little maelstrom of free jazz and somehow managing to land back on the head with great ease (or so it appears). The Idiot Bastard Son improves greatly on the original with an amazing starkness and even without the lyrics, Ponty conveys the snide humor of Zappa's song more than convincingly. Twenty Small Cigars is a great little ballad with lots of snaky melodic twists and an alluring late night chord progression. How Would You Like To Have A Head Like That? is the one Ponty original, and it goes into full-tilt blues/rock mode with none other than FZ strapping on a guitar and unleashing one seriously garlic-laden blues solo.

Things take a turn for the far more serious with Music for Violin and Low Budget Orchestra (named because the recording budget did not allow for a full orchestra as FZ originally envisioned the piece), here Ponty navigates some notoriously difficult passages with all kinds of mayhem taking place, some of which could make one thing of Henry Cow and Stravinsky in a heated argument, and of course it's still peppered with some humorous little nuggets like a quote from Zappa's Duke of Prunes.

And finally, things wrap up with a HILARIOUSLY drunken sounding rendition of America Drinks and Goes Home. It sounds like they were having a blast knocking this one out.

All told, Ponty really sinks his teeth into these pieces for everything its worth and comes up with more than a few musical gems, and good 'ol FZ is to be given lots of props for bringing JLP into the spotlight more with American audiences. Highly recommended.

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is a nice little album, that contains a few gems. I had been looking for it back in the seventies, when Pacific kindly re-released it in a set with "The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience With The George Duke Trio", another nice album. And the CD version somehow made it to the great Blue Note label.

All of the songs except one are Zappa compositions. Frank arranged the songs for this band, and plays guitar on the one Ponty composed tune, the Zappa inspired How Would You Like To Have A Head Like That. That song is actually one of the highlights. Zappa plays great solo on the piece.

Another highlight is Music For Electric Violin And Low Budget Orchestra, sort of a modern classical/jazz/rock blend that works surprisingly well. The piece was releases much later by Zappa himself, in a "revised" (shortened) form. In this version, we get snippets of Duke Of Prunes and A Pound For A Brown On The Bus blended in for our enjoyment.

And despite being very short, the arrangement of America Drinks And Goes Home has a bridge section that I've never heard in any other rendition.

This is a great fusion album, and a must for the Zappa collector.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This really comes across as a Ponty/ Zappa collaboration as Frank re-arranged his 6 tracks on here and then plays guitar on one song, the song Ponty composed "How would You Like To Have A Head Like That". They were fans of each others music before Jean-Luc started to play on Zappa albums. Frank's debut was in 1966 and Jean-Luc's in 1964. They have George Duke on electric piano throughout and Ian Underwood on sax on both the opener and closer. He also conducts the 19 1/2 minute "Music For Electric Violin And Low Budget Orchestra". Ian had a Bachelors degree from Yale and a Masters from Berkeley in piano and composing. Interesting that Frank brought in Buell Neidlinger to play bass on the longest track here because he didn't know who else could do it. Buell was at the time playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra but he played with both Cecil Taylor and Gil Evans in the 50's.

The violin really does dominate the sound overall and this is all instrumental. "King Kong" is such a good way to start as we get this violin led track with bass, drums, vibes and electric piano mostly. Ponty is ripping it up before 3 minutes. "Idiot Bastard Son" has that familiar melody coming and going throughout. You don't need to hear the words when you can sing them. Not big on "Twenty Small Cigars" to be honest. Ponty's track is really good with George showing his stuff along with Frank. Kind of cool that we get a solo from George for about a minute followed by Zappa's guitar solo for about a minute before Ponty returns to end it with the violin. The long song is a trip through different styles and sounds. Conservatory music to Jazz to Avant it's quite the ride. The closer is okay.

Easily a 4 star album for me and no Jean-Luc did nothing else similar to this with his solo stuff but if I had to recommend one of his other solo albums it would be "Enigmatic Ocean".

Latest members reviews

4 stars This collaboration feels natural from the first note to the last. Zappa's personality shines through of course but Jean Luc Ponty plays a great second fiddle. There's a few Mothers songs but the real winners are How Would You Like a Head Like That and Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget O ... (read more)

Report this review (#1946549) | Posted by WFV | Sunday, July 8, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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