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Jean-Luc Ponty - King Kong - Jean-Luc Ponty Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa CD (album) cover


Jean-Luc Ponty


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.93 | 59 ratings

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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.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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