Review by Gatot (Gatot Widayanto)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator
I just found this rare album by Jean Luc Ponty at secondary market in Jakarta, in cassette format, manufactured by Epic, New York. The cassette is in an excellent condition and I am quite surprised with the wonderful sonic quality of this cassette, especially when I listen to it with a Sennheiser PX-100 headset; all detail and subtleties of the music instruments as well as vocal or choirs I can get it nicely from this record. What a lucky man I was with only US$ 1.10 I can get a great quality of record. In fact, I keep playing this cassette because I enjoy the quality, really, and at the same time it’s a kind of journey to past days when I only had cassettes to enjoy music because I could not afford to buy vinyl LP.
JEAN LUC PONTY “Tchokola” showcases his collaboration with Southe African music, especially dance rhythm, and musicians. Of course I did not expect the album would sound something similar with “Cosmic Messenger” or legendary “Enigmatic Ocean” but I am sure there must be some masterpiece violin work that Ponty has ever delivered in his previous albums. Looking at the cassette inlay I can find a set of photos of each musician involved whom I have not been familiar with the name before. There is no single musician, except Angelic Kidjo, that I find here is the same with his 70s albums. But nevermind, I just really want to explore the music further.
The album kicks off nicely with “Mam’ Mai” which includes the “sabar” as traditional dance from Senegal. The main rhythm section comprises tight basslines by Guy and percussion work by Brice Wassy, while Ponty provides nice violin work. The vocals are repetitive in style performed by Myriam Betty and Esther Dobongna Essiene. “Sakka Sakka” moves the music in upbeat mode with bass & percussion still provide the main rhythm section, overlaid by Ponty violin fills which all of them accompany female vocals line. The album title track “Tchocokola” has a mellow style with rich textures of percussion work comprising many types of sounds which make the music enjoyable, especially when it’s combined with dynamic and powerful basslines. This song is a modern adaption of “man-ngambeu” and “danzi” rhythms from West Cameroon.
“Mouna Bowa” is based on the markossa style from Douala, Cameroon. Percusssion / drums and bass guitar joined by acoustic guitar form a solid rhythm section which accompanies Ponty’s stunning violin solo. There is an attractive segment which demonstrates innovative bass guitar solo at later part of the song. “N’fan Mot” has a dynamic bass in the vein of Weather Report’s Jaco Pastorious. It s a very nice composition. The “bikutsi” is a dance from Southern Cameroon.
“Ye Ke Ye Ke” opens Side B with dynamic basslines augmented by violin fills accompanying female vocal. It’s interesting to notice on the use of harp as soloist in the middle of the track. It happens as well on the next track “Bamako” which includes “Mandingo” rhythm originated fromWest Africa. “Rhum ‘N’ Zouc” was written by Ponty with “zouc” is a blend of French Caribean (beguine) and African influences. The music is performed in upbeat tempo with inventive violin work and dynamic basslines. The remaining two tracks “Cono” and “Bottle Bop” represent similar vein with other tracks with the latter includes the “Ashiko” as a traditional dance rhythm from coastal Cameroon.
Overall, this is a good collaborative work between Ponty with the Sout African cultures attempting to blend Ponty’s jazz-rock violin with traditional dance rhythms. On composition, most of the songs are straight forward in nature and it’s unlike the legendary “Enigmatic Ocean” album where the music moves in different styles in the passages of the music. Keep on proggin’ ..!
Peace on earth and mercy mild – GW