Jean-Luc Ponty
King Kong


4.0
excellent

Review

by Zignetha Feltskug USER (60 Reviews)
June 20th, 2018 | 8 replies


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ponty plays the music of Frank Zappa

This album is probably the most important work in Jean-Luc Ponty’s career, in that it’s both the turning point that gave him a visibility his previous work in mainstream Jazz would have never made possible, and the opportunity to escape the growing pressures that wanted to push him into commercial music. The source of Ponty’s breakthrough was the mutual admiration he developed with Frank Zappa; the former saw Zappa’s sophisticated music as a serious alternative to the mainstream simplicity he was being coerced to experiment with, whereas the first thing the latter did after hearing a Ponty record was to invite him to play in Hot Rats; Zappa was so interested in Ponty’s mix of classical background and ability to improvise.

Basically a musical aesthetics continuation to Hot Rats, King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa is exactly what it says: Zappa writes and arranges the songs and Ponty plays the main themes and does the majority of soloing on either electric violin or baritone violectra with a backing band of usually electric piano/bass/drums/sax. Frank Zappa then returns the favor by playing guitar on the sole Ponty composition, "How Would You Like to Have a Head Like That." The Zappa selections are perfect choices: jazz and avant-garde experimentation are both represented equally (plus a bit of goofy fun at the end, in the form of "America Drinks and Goes Home" from Absolutely Free).

Side one is more jazz rock/fusion-oriented: it contains "King Kong", one of the best The Mothers of Invention's work, and the excellent "The Idiot Bastard Son" track, taken from the earlier Mothers' 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; and fantastic soloing from everyone involved, especially George Duke on keys. Side two is a serious 'extended orchestral work', the 20 minute track "Music for Violin and Low Budget Orchestra." Zappa's skills at arranging and orchestration are showcased well, and the whole piece goes through about 100 different changes and textures throughout the 19 minutes. Despite the 'low-budget' he still is able to score for viola, cello, bass, piano, flute, french horn, tuba, oboe, English horn, bassoon, and of course, Ponty's electric violin.

Overall, King Kong is an absolutely excellent album and definitely worth looking out. This sure feels like a Zappa album. Frank wrote the tunes, and if memory serves he conducted and rearranged the songs, as well as playing guitar on Ponty's one original track, and this album is the best recorded example of his "serious" music until his fully satisfying work with the Ensemble Modern late in his life. Anyway, while Ponty fans might dig this, it really is a Zappa album in all but name, and King Kong is too often overlooked by Zappa's fanbase.



Recent reviews by this author
Novos Baianos Acabou ChorareJohn Cage Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano
Faust FaustEnnio Morricone The Thing
Jerry Goldsmith AlienEnnio Morricone Once Upon a Time in America
user ratings (8)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Zig
June 20th 2018


1346 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Some say that Ponty was possibly the only person Frank ever hated.

Digging: Neptune Towers - Caravans To Empire Algol

GhandhiLion
June 20th 2018


3174 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good job reviewing a gem

Digging: Boxhead Ensemble - Two Brothers

Zig
June 20th 2018


1346 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, Ghandhi !

Madbutcher3
June 21st 2018


2288 Comments


good stuff reviewing ponty man. review is great too

Zig
June 22nd 2018


1346 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, Mad.

Jethro42
June 22nd 2018


15578 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i'm not familiar with Zappa's original versions here except for ''King Kong'', but Ponty is shining as usual. Nice review, Zig.



Edit; ''Music for Violin and Low Budget Orchestra'' rings me a bell.

Zig
June 23rd 2018


1346 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, Jethro. Some stuff would appear later on Zappa albums like Music for Violin and Low Budget Orchestra, re-worked and re-title as Revised Music for Guitar & Low-Budget Orchestra.

Jethro42
June 23rd 2018


15578 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ah I see, thanks for the infos. Since I'm more familiar with Ponty, I prefer his version. I dig some Zappa, don't get me wrong, but his music is often too eccentric, packed and weirdly improvisation-oriented.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy