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Jean-Luc Ponty

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Jean-Luc Ponty Tchokola album cover
2.48 | 34 ratings | 6 reviews | 3% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Mam'mai (6:00)
2. Sakka Sakka (5:22)
3. Tchokola (5:47)
4. Mouna Bowa (6:32)
5. N'Fan Mot (6:10)
6. Yéké Yéké (4:58)
7. Bamako (4:31)
8. Rhum 'N' Zouc (5:04)
9. Cono (4:56)
10. Bottle Pop (4:49)

Total Time 53:49

Line-up / Musicians

- Jean-Luc Ponty / acoustic & electric Violins, keyboards, co-producer

- Willy N'For / Vocals (2)
- Myriam Betty / Vocals
- Angélique Kidjo / Vocals
- Estha "Divine" (Essiéne) / vocals
- Martin Atangana / guitar
- Yves N'Djock / guitar
- Kémo Kouyaté / Harp, kora, balafon, backing vocals
- Guy N'Sangué / bass
- Brice Wassy / drums, percussion (shakers, bells, bottle, bugarabus, talking drum), co-producer
- Abdou M'boup / percussion (bongos, bugarabus, tama, sabars), vocals (1)
- Moustapha Cissé / percussion (djembé, bember, doumdoumba, talking drum)

Releases information

Artwork: "Omen" by Assane N'Doye with David Coleman (art direction & logo design)

LP Epic ‎- EPC 468522 1 (1991, Netherlands)

CD Epic ‎- EK 47378 (1991, US)

Thanks to ivan_2068 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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JEAN-LUC PONTY Tchokola ratings distribution

(34 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(3%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(18%)
Good, but non-essential (56%)
Collectors/fans only (21%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

JEAN-LUC PONTY Tchokola reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars Jazz and Rock musicians have often been captivated by the strong and magical African Music, like for example Peter Gabriel and the legendary percussionist Ginger Baker, but very few have gone so far as Jean Luc Ponty in Tchokola. It's true that Jazz has it's roots in Afro American music and it's the ideal genre to be blended with melodic chants and complex rhythm patterns, but sometimes it's better to take less risks instead of loosing the melody in an avalanche of percussion and rhythm.

One of Ponty's greatest abilities is to blend different influences but always keeping intact his distinctive sound and style, strangely in this case seems that he got too involved with the strong rhythms and tribal chants loosing part of his personal and unique style which is absorbed by the strength and magic of African music.

The whole staff of musicians is from West Africa, and most of them play exotic instruments like cora, bugarubu balaphon, sabers, tama, etc; a prove that he got really involved in this project, but he had to pay the price because he lost control at some point, ceasing to be a fusion album but mainly an African music release.

Even stranger is that he lets Abdou Mboup, Willy Nfor & Myriam Betty make the arrangements in a couple of songs when Ponty is well known for assuming the absolute control of his albums. Of course this two songs (Mam'Mai and Sakka Sakka) are a pure expression of Afro Funk more than Prog Fusion, even when his unique violin remains almost intact.

In this case I don't consider necessary to make a song by song review because all the songs have a very similar sound and atmosphere, making Tchokola a bit boring by moments, because it's as a stampede of complex rhythmic patterns and chants but somehow repetitive, despite this fact I'll mention at least two tracks that impressed me.

My favorite song from this album is Tchokola, probably the only pure expression of the complex and rich fusion that Monsieur Ponty is used to give us, beautiful violin, jazzy structure with a subtle background of African percussion, he never lost control in this song, by far the best one in the album.

My second choice is Mouna Bowa, this song presents a perfect balance between Jazz and Afro Beat, Ponty is simply delightful, Jean Luc really has a lot of fun in this song playing like a kid with his violin, but the real star of this track is Guy Nsangué (who's still playing with him after so many years) with his amazing and strong bass, Nsangué is not just part of the rhythm section he takes the lead along with Jean Luc, another great track.

From a general perspective I must admit thatTchokola a good album, interesting and exiting from an explorative point of view, but not what you could expect from a Jean Luc Ponty release.

It's hard to rate this album, because one of the main characteristics of Prog' is to experiment and Tchokola is clearly an experimental album, but this is no reason to loose part of his personality as Ponty does in some of the songs, so I will rate Tchokola with 3 stars, because it's interesting and exiting but not in the level of his previous works.

Review by Flucktrot
2 stars Sometimes you take a chance on an album, hoping that it will surprise you. That's not the case here: there are no surprises here. Ponty simply takes the same formula for every song, starting with a light intro, which introduces the tempo and key signature, and then intersperses some violin solos, African chanting, or other sound effects. There really is little melody, certainly no choruses (except the title track), and the overall effect is feeling like you're hearing the same song 10 times over.

I'm definitely no expert on African-influenced music, but I also am confident that I can detect Disney-style sanitized music when I hear it. Where is the passion and excitement that can be heard in other African music? I don't know, but it's certainly not here. This album will fail to grab your attention, and when you strain to keep your attention fixed, you can't help but wonder if this is the guy who at one time rocked with Zappa and other notables or a Yanni clone.

There are a few notable highlights, included the contemplative melody of the title track, the bass solo in Mouna Bowa, the staccato feel to Bamako, and the heavy percussion of Cono. Unfortunately, Ponty's violin is usually the least interesting thing happening: a serious flaw when it is almost always the featured instrument. With little variety in tone and texture, the electric violin wears thin quickly.

Is this rock? Is this progressive? Probably not. That's not a dealbreaker, but it's also boring, over-sanitized, and without emotion, which means that I really can't think of any reason why you might have interest in this album.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I just found this rare album by Jean Luc Ponty at secondary market in Jakarta, in cassette format, manufactured by Epic, New York. The cassette is in an excellent condition and I am quite surprised with the wonderful sonic quality of this cassette, especially when I listen to it with a Sennheiser PX-100 headset; all detail and subtleties of the music instruments as well as vocal or choirs I can get it nicely from this record. What a lucky man I was with only US$ 1.10 I can get a great quality of record. In fact, I keep playing this cassette because I enjoy the quality, really, and at the same time it's a kind of journey to past days when I only had cassettes to enjoy music because I could not afford to buy vinyl LP.

JEAN LUC PONTY "Tchokola" showcases his collaboration with Southe African music, especially dance rhythm, and musicians. Of course I did not expect the album would sound something similar with "Cosmic Messenger" or legendary "Enigmatic Ocean" but I am sure there must be some masterpiece violin work that Ponty has ever delivered in his previous albums. Looking at the cassette inlay I can find a set of photos of each musician involved whom I have not been familiar with the name before. There is no single musician, except Angelic Kidjo, that I find here is the same with his 70s albums. But nevermind, I just really want to explore the music further.

The album kicks off nicely with "Mam' Mai" which includes the "sabar" as traditional dance from Senegal. The main rhythm section comprises tight basslines by Guy and percussion work by Brice Wassy, while Ponty provides nice violin work. The vocals are repetitive in style performed by Myriam Betty and Esther Dobongna Essiene. "Sakka Sakka" moves the music in upbeat mode with bass & percussion still provide the main rhythm section, overlaid by Ponty violin fills which all of them accompany female vocals line. The album title track "Tchocokola" has a mellow style with rich textures of percussion work comprising many types of sounds which make the music enjoyable, especially when it's combined with dynamic and powerful basslines. This song is a modern adaption of "man-ngambeu" and "danzi" rhythms from West Cameroon.

"Mouna Bowa" is based on the markossa style from Douala, Cameroon. Percusssion / drums and bass guitar joined by acoustic guitar form a solid rhythm section which accompanies Ponty's stunning violin solo. There is an attractive segment which demonstrates innovative bass guitar solo at later part of the song. "N'fan Mot" has a dynamic bass in the vein of Weather Report's Jaco Pastorious. It s a very nice composition. The "bikutsi" is a dance from Southern Cameroon.

"Ye Ke Ye Ke" opens Side B with dynamic basslines augmented by violin fills accompanying female vocal. It's interesting to notice on the use of harp as soloist in the middle of the track. It happens as well on the next track "Bamako" which includes "Mandingo" rhythm originated fromWest Africa. "Rhum 'N' Zouc" was written by Ponty with "zouc" is a blend of French Caribean (beguine) and African influences. The music is performed in upbeat tempo with inventive violin work and dynamic basslines. The remaining two tracks "Cono" and "Bottle Bop" represent similar vein with other tracks with the latter includes the "Ashiko" as a traditional dance rhythm from coastal Cameroon.

Overall, this is a good collaborative work between Ponty with the Sout African cultures attempting to blend Ponty's jazz-rock violin with traditional dance rhythms. On composition, most of the songs are straight forward in nature and it's unlike the legendary "Enigmatic Ocean" album where the music moves in different styles in the passages of the music. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by b_olariu
2 stars By the time when Tchokola was released in 1991 , Jean Luc Ponty music was no longer very attractiv like few years before or a decade earlier, this album presents that afro jazz fusion with not many intresting moments, at least for me. I have nothing agains afro music, some of that music I like, but here in combination with jazz fusion elements doesn't come together very well for my ears. Only few piecs from here impress me, like Yéké Yéké or the title track who are very good, the violin of this master musicin sounds very well , the rest are forgetable for me, not bad but nothing to talk about either. So, one of the unintresting albums from Ponty career, with few captivating passages like some albums have from the past. 2.5 stars is best I can give to this release.
Review by Mirakaze
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
1 stars As Jean-Luc Ponty came out of the 1980s, which for him had mostly been a decade of musical stagnation in which memorable musical moments were far outnumbered by unassuming filler, he decided that it was time for a swift change in musical direction and thus he embraced the concept of world fusion, augmenting his sound with African chanting choirs, rhythms and "tribal" percussion. The result sadly sounds less like a sincere attempt at artistic reinvention and more like a hackneyed attempt at hopping on a semi-popular bandwagon of the time. It clearly did not rejuvenate Ponty's own flame either because the man goes through the motions like never before on this album: there's nothing interesting about these saccharine compositions, his playing rarely impresses, and his violin tone sounds overly slick and processed, which together with the thoroughly lackluster production (with the same muddy bass and flat, unreverberated guitar twiddling about in the background the whole time) only helps to make this a very dull listening experience. The culture of the African continent deserves better representation than this hackwork.

Latest members reviews

2 stars An experiment that leaves Ponty neither here, nor there as the missing link remains missing. It's hardly a surprise that a Jazz artist makes an effort to connect with the roots of Jazz by engaging traditional African elements. My first impression was that this full vocals release may have bee ... (read more)

Report this review (#1340093) | Posted by Anon-E-Mouse | Sunday, January 4, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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