Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Frank Zappa - Piquantique (1973) (aac/m4a 128kbps)

There is something that fascinates me about the short time Zappa spent working with Jean-luc Ponty. I don't know if he had ever had such a talented musician in his band up to that point. Ian Underwood, who appears on these recordings comes to mind, but more for the number of things he could do well, as opposed to his extraordinary talent on any one instrument. George Duke may be in the same class as Ponty, but he really comes into his own as a bandmember in the next two or three years.

Ponty was not the crazed lunatic that often appeared in The Mothers. he wore an argyle sweater vest. His entry in Waka Jawiki states hat he and Frank did not part as friends, but that it's clear they both benefited from the relationship. Obviously, Ponty went on to huge success as a fusion guy who incorporated a lot of Frank's progressive ideas. But what did Frank get?

There is so much confidence in Ponty's soloing, that I imagine I can almost hear Zappa trying to chase him down. The short solos on RDNZL are a great example.

But it's on Father O'blivion that things really go to another planet. There's plenty of room for fantastic jams and it's clear that Jean-Luc relishes taking the spotlight away from the flamboyant band leader for a soaring melodic journey that finally envelopes the whole band. This whole joyful process begins around the 2:00 minute mark.

The 'march thet eats my starch' takes up a good chuck of the next few minutes after the solo and gives the band a chance to space out. This eventually resolves into nice little boogie with the aid of a few echo units. Again, and almost without warning, Ponty comes out with another face-melter. This insanity starts around the 10:00 minute mark.

Ponty eventually gives way and he and Zappa go back and forth in a twisted tribute to the band that Ponty would soon join. The result, however, sounds nothing like Jerry Goodman or John McLaughlin. Zappa has to wrestle the band back from his 'guest star', but proceeds to put his thing down for only a few measures, at which point it's time to explore the percussion part of the piece. First vibes, then acrobatics from the whole band and then a fine drum solo by Ralph Humphries - one of Frank's most underrated drummers.

The finale is a beautiful statement of the melody, incorporating bits from Gregory Pecry and other stuff floating around the master's head. He's so proud of it, he makes the band play it twice.

This is a transitional moment for Zappa, and it is extremely well-documented in compact, and listenable form. It sounds like a 35 year old bootleg because that's what it is. But it's also a document of some of the finest playing by two renowned musicians who clearly shared a great respect.

1. Kung Fu (02:14)
2. Redunzl (04:25)
3. Dupree's Paradise (11:26)
4. T'Mershi Duween (01:56)
5. Father O'Blivion (20:41)

Live recording from Solliden, Skansen, Stockholm August 21 1973 with the exception of T'Mershi Duween, the location and date of which are unknown.

Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals)
George Duke (keyboards)
Bruce Fowler (trombone)
Tom Fowler (bass)
Ralph Humphrey (drums)
Jean-Luc Ponty (violin)
Ian Underwood (woodwinds)
Ruth Underwood (percussion)

1 comment:

MPomy said...