From the Stacks

From the Stacks: ‘King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa’

Ponty King Kong The World of Zappa was immense. The guy was a true musician’s musician, surrounding himself with the best talent: Shuggie Otis, Adrian Belew, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, George Duke, Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio, Flo and Eddie, Lowell George, Captain Beefheart and those are just the names you might recognize.

And then there’s Jean-Luc Ponty, the classically trained “jazz fiddler” who made his name during the ’70s walking the tightrope separating new age and prog. Check out “Cosmic Messenger,” for example, from the 1978 album of the same name:

The guy had chops, no doubt about that, and Frank noticed. Zappa arranged some of his existing material for Ponty, then in late ’69 joined him for the album King Kong. Other Mothers played on the album, too, including George Duke. The result is exactly what you’d expect: A great Zappa album with violin solos.

King Kong is still in print on CD, and it’s a must for a Zappa collector. Vinyl copies are silly cheap considering what you’re getting, ranging from 5 to 10 bucks. Additionally, the record was later re-released with another Ponty album as Cantaloupe Island. That set trades in the $15-20 range. Happy hunting.


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