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The comparison between Ponga and the early-70s groups of Miles and Herbie Hancock is obvious but not facile. Obvious points of comparison are the tension that exists between the unpredictability of the live sources and the postmodernist structuring achieved in-studio; the coexistence of groove and physicality with an amorphous, ambiguous improvisatory conceptualism; and the omnivorous aspect of the music which renders it both in- and outside of its contemporary milieau.
Ponga as an album and a group entity creates a feeling of distanced duality. Which is one of its major aesthetic selling points. The group's membersWayne Horvitz, Dave Palmer, Bobby Previte, and Skerik - are all contributors to the modern avant-garde scene, a scene which invites certain "roots" infoldings, such as the organ grooves of Horvitz' Zony Mash ensemble or the Latin elements of some of Previte's work. So despite the funkiness that is never far from the center, there seems to be a yawning chasm between that grounded physicality and the "mind" side of the equation. Something like "Naugahide", with its creepingly repeated sax motif, gives only the illusion of the emotionalism and clarity of purpose which characterizes most pop music.
In this way the music both stands apart from contemporary popular music and reflects the developments of the past several years, notably in the electronic genres. Like Dark Magus and Sextant, the music is process made almost flesh, a living body that repels and fascinates with its alien character. However, there is not as much of a gap between Ponga and modern popular music as there was between electric-period Miles and the tunes of that time, indicating that the erosion of the barriers between "jazz" and others forms is increasingly accelerating.
Track Listing: Pimba; Pick Up the Pieces of Saturn; Naugahide; Blowtorch; Awesome Wells; Ponga Amore; Liberace in Space; Bookin.
Personnel: Wayne Horvitz: keys; Dave Palmer: keys; Bobby Previte: drums; Skerik: sax, samplers.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.