(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
One of the most unique and sadly underrated items in Jean Luc Ponty's recorded output.
Under the auspices of one Frank Zappa (who wrote everything on here except "How Would You Like To Have a Head Like That?"), Ponty reinterpreted Zappa's material with great warmth, wit and understanding while genuinely making these pieces his own. "King Kong" gets things off to a rip-roaring start with violin and vibes spinning off the twisted pentatonic melody into a wonderful little maelstrom of free jazz and somehow managing to land back on the head with great ease (or so it appears). "The Idiot Bastard Son" improves greatly on the original with an amazing starkness and even without the lyrics, Ponty conveys the snide humor of Zappa's song more than convincingly. "Twenty Small Cigars" is a great little ballad with lots of snaky melodic twists and an alluring late night chord progression. "How Would You Like To Have A Head Like That?" is the one Ponty original, and it goes into full-tilt blues/rock mode with none other than FZ strapping on a guitar and unleashing one seriously garlic-laden blues solo.
Things take a turn for the far more serious with "Music for Violin and Low Budget Orchestra" (named because the recording budget did not allow for a full orchestra as FZ originally envisioned the piece), here Ponty navigates some notoriously difficult passages with all kinds of mayhem taking place, some of which could make one thing of Henry Cow and Stravinsky in a heated argument, and of course it's still peppered with some humorous little nuggets like a quote from Zappa's "Duke of Prunes".
And finally, things wrap up with a HILARIOUSLY drunken sounding rendition of "America Drinks and Goes Home". It sounds like they were having a blast knocking this one out.
All told, Ponty really sinks his teeth into these pieces for everything its worth and comes up with more than a few musical gems, and good 'ol FZ is to be given lots of props for bringing JLP into the spotlight more with American audiences. Highly recommended.