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Jean-Luc Ponty - Tchokola CD (album) cover

TCHOKOLA

Jean-Luc Ponty

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.59 | 27 ratings

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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.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 3/5 |

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