FRENCH OPEN — DAY FOUR

Last night’s evening fixture was a marathon, finishing long after the press contingent retired to Le Pub. Patrons, however, were glued to their seats for the intriguing and often elegant encounter between electric violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and guitarist/composer Alain Markusfeld. 

Both opened with their 1978 albums: Platock for Markusfeld and Cosmic Messenger for Ponty. 

The first set went to Alain and it was well into the second before Jean-Luc woke up. He’d seemed mesmerised by the guitar prowess of Markusfeld; acoustic or electric, he was fast and lyrical. The crowd seemed stunned too, having become eerily silent as it looked as if their jazz-rock hero might get blown away before he’d even got going.

Platock is an elegant instrumental album full of guitar, piano and melody. The opening acoustic guitar piece, ‘Fayava’, is stunning, flowing seamlessly into some electric stretching in ‘L’Enrouleur de Galaxies’. The versatile Monsieur M then shifts to piano and organ for the evocative ‘Automne et Éternité’. Sacrebleu, but he’s dynamite on keyboards too!

Side two is the ‘Platock Concerto’ which is less pretentious than it sounds. The movements offer the opportunity to change shot selection and tonality though Markusfeld never lets you forget he is, front and centre, a fabulous guitarist most at home on his acoustic. Classy stuff that would be lapped up by fans of Mike Oldfield’s first three albums.

The number two seed knew he needed to pull out something pretty special or he would be heading back to his Chateau. And he did, playing Upon The Wings of Music (1975) and Enigmatic Ocean (1977) back to back and taking out the match.

When he recorded Upon The Wings of Music, Ponty was still with the second incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. But those bandmates are not on his solo album. Instead he turned to keyboard player Patrice Rushen, drummer Ndugu and bassist Ralph Armstrong for a deft and versatile rhythm section. Guitar duties are shared by Dan Sawyer and Ray Parker Junior, with the latter taking some tasty solos.

But it’s Jean-Luc’s show. He wrote all eight pieces (most four to five minutes long) and is clearly the leader of the ensemble. Having said that, the others shine when space allows, particularly Ms Rushen. Highlights include the title track, the slower ‘Now I know’ and rhythmically tricky ‘Polyfolk dance’ that clues you in as to why Frank Zappa got on so well with Ponty.

Only bass player Armstrong is still on board for Enigmatic Ocean. But get the other players: Allan Holdsworth (UK, Tempest, Gong, amongst others) and Daryl Stuermer (Genesis) on electric guitars, Allan Zavod (ex-Zappa) on keys and Steve Smith on drums. This album has more prominent keyboards, and a more progressive flavour generally. But don’t let that put you off; here is a wonderfully engrossing entrée to two key seventies genres: jazz-rock and prog.

‘Mirage’ is a fabulous exemplar. Inventive but grooving, melodic yet taut. The ‘Enigmatic Ocean’ suite is grand in conception yet an accessible listening experience. Ponty has a way with short, enjoyable melodies and here they provide launch-pads for some stellar soloing. Enigmatic Ocean is a personal favourite of your correspondent. Well matched with vintage Chardonnay and camembert. 

For those energised by the Ponty-Markusfeld match, there was a late night disco in the unused dance hall behind Le Pub. Four dusty mirror balls were suspended over the hastily cleared parquetry floor, over which spread an array of drunk journalists and players already eliminated from the tournament. Some were even moving, though only a handful were vertical.

Music of a distinctly Eurodisco tint was provided by Rockets, featuring the inimitable  Zeus B Held on Vocoder. Described as Disco Space-Rock, the band sported suitably outa-space costumes, utilising considerable meterage of aluminium foil. The lights flickering between the mirror balls and their silvered faces made for a truly psychecelestial concert; flares both solar and trousered were much in evidence.

Playing songs from their 1978 album On The Road Again (their road being a spaceway, presumably), the band were thoroughly entertaining in a truly kitsch way. ‘Sci Fi Boogie’, ‘Space Rock’, ‘Venus Rapsody’ (sic) were all well received by the non-comatose, and the finale—their synth-boogie take on the Canned Heat classic (the title track of the album, no less—brought the house down. Hopefully it will be rebuilt in time for the post-tournament ball. 

 

23 comments

  1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Ah, that first Ponty record (the blue one) you featured there was one I recall from my step-dad’s record collection. In fact, I think I have it out in my garage. Oh, if you ever come near this way, that will be all the encouragement I need to do something about all of those damn records.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Argh! Records in the garage! Call the trauma hotline.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        I know. Varying temperatures too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wot no Cerrone?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll leave the high-brow stuff to you, mate. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hoho! That Platock cover is all sorts of, eh, wowzerzness… definitely the kind of thing I’d discard, I’m afraid… shame, cause it sounds like I’d be missing out. I also think I might like this Ponty chap, so that’s another two names added to my list (thank you very much).

    Also, I may also investigate yon Rockets, cause, well, you make them sound so dang awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ponty is terrific, though as with all extensive catalogues, there are some best avoided (bland rather than bad). Enigmatic Oceans is certainly recommended, as is the sequencer driven Individual Choice from ‘83.
      Might see if I can add a link for Rockets. Awesome scarcely does their silvered awesomeness justice!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow. This is everything I hoped the Rockets would be.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed!
          I was lucky enough to see Canned Heat in the 70s; not like this tho.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Knowing every Jean-Luc mentioned and never known Markusfeld – would be a lousy line umpire. Sounds interestion Markusfeld beating “Cosmic Messenger” like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Platock is very nicely done (though one shouldn’t pay too much serious attention to the outcomes of the matches!).

      Like

  5. Now i will have to dig into some of the music after the tennis is over. Enjoying the tournament.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pleased.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lots to follow up on in this post, thanks Bruce. Maybe some G4/YouTube/Bluetooth in the car will be necessary this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always a lot to keep track of in a tournament, DD. Happy cruising!

      Like

      1. Enigmatic Ocean made me feel like I had had three double espressos for breakfast!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s a fabulous band. Truly caffeinated.

          Like

  7. Have always found Ponty’s stuff a bit cheesy but the presence of Ray Parker Jr. and Holdsworth on those albums means I’ll definitely be checking them out – thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There certainly some that stray closer to Cheeseville, (Mystical Adventures springs to mind) but these to are dairy free.

      Like

  8. I remain largely ignorant of the competitors but who am I going to call? S.O.S. Fantômes?

    Tasty solos taken by Ray Parker Jr. does sound like something I should explore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Enigmatic Ocean’ is a good Ponty to sample. But I suspect that having ploughed through this ‘week’ you might be sated with enigma (and its variations).

      Like

Comments and responses welcome for all posts: present or past. Please join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: