Jono El Grande - The Choko King (CD Rune Grammofon)

We donít get a lot of albums sent to us where humour is one of the most obvious traits but The Choko King is probably one of the most playful albums Iíve heard this year. Itís chock a block full of humour and quirkiness. The ghost of Frank Zappa is certainly making its influence felt.

On first listen I assumed what we had here was a concept album; a mini comedic opera, not unlike Joeís Garage but looking at the press release that comes with this itís actually a collection of pieces from between 1995 and 2008 so thatís that theory out of the window then!

Jono El Grande is a self-taught composer, musician, conductor and prankster. He released his debut album in 1999 which was a collection of absurdist instrumentals and some of the pieces here predate that.

In light of all this itís quite remarkable how cohesive the whole album is. It doesnít sound like a collection of pieces written and recorded over a thirteen year period and I guess this is where the humour comes in. That quirkiness that this album and itís many tracks has makes for a common unifying feel for the album and doesnít make it sound as disjointed as something covering this time frame could do.

Itís hard to do the piece themselves justice by trying to describe them, youíd actually lose a whole heap of the humour of them and they cover a number of genres so perhaps the best way to give an idea of the flavour of what goes on here is too say what they most resemble. Zappa is to me the most predominant and obvious influence. If you think of Zappa in the mid Ď70s with lots of vibraphone and lots of jazzy feel you wouldnít be far offÖ. Maybe Camarillo Brillo or Duprees ParadiseÖ maybe chuck in a bit of Danciní Fool and youíre 75% of the way there. The other influence I got from here is Flying Teapot era Gong. Well Oily Way in particular. Again itís that jazzy feel and Oily Way has that in bucket loads once you get past the opening flute solo. In fact Daevid Allen putís quite a bit of his jazz roots into Gong and for all I know Jono may never have heard of Gong but I can hear them in these tracks. Thereís more than just the sum of those two influences to this album (you could also throw the Kronos Quartet into the influence pot on one or two tracks if you wished) but ultimately itís the fun factor and eccentricity that makes it the successful album it is. DB

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