For album No. 15, fusion violinist Jean Luc Ponty went to Paris, linked up with some West Africans, and concocted his own world music hybrid, in the long shadow of Paul Simon’s Graceland. This all-too-familiar process is, at best, a testament to the culture-hopping universality of music. At worst, it’s a synthetic pastiche. Tchokola falls somewhere in the middle. The mating between the band’s gentle polyrhythmic percolations and Ponty’s more squared-off rhythm isn’t complete: The band’s seductive, churning grooves actually command more attention than Ponty’s violin icing. Still, Tchokola is a refreshing about-face from Ponty’s earlier reliance on synthesizers and sequencers. Even if the cross-cultural graft isn’t seamless, there’s a fervent, joyous, and human pulse driving the music. B-

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