Jean-Luc Ponty Quartet
Waltons World Masters Series
‘Jean-Luc Ponty is a pioneer and undisputed master of violin in the arena of jazz and fusion. He is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique visionary spin that has expanded the vocabulary of modern music.’
– All About Jazz
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When Thursday, 12 March 2009
Where National Concert Hall, Dublin, Main Auditorium
Presented by Waltons New School of Music
Supported by RTÉ lyric fm, The Irish Times, Brooks Hotel
Jean-Luc Ponty Quartet
Jean-Luc Ponty • Violin, Electric Violin
William Lecomte • Keyboards
Guy Nsangué Akwa • Bass
Damien Schmitt • Drums
This concert was recorded for broadcast on RTÉ lyric fm.
‘another scoop for the Waltons World Masters series’
– Grainne Farren, Sunday Independent
‘Classically trained, with an unquenchable ability to swing when he wants to, and consumed by a passion for tight structures and repeating ostinatos, Ponty has been able to handle styles as diverse as swing, bop, free and modal jazz, jazz-rock, world music, and even country, mixing them up at will.’
– All Music Guide
One of the greatest jazz violinists of all time, Jean-Luc Ponty has had a long and fascinating career. Originally trained at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, where he received that institution’s highest award, Premier Prix, Ponty turned to jazz at a time when few viewed the instrument as having a legitimate place in the modern jazz vocabulary. With a powerful sound that eschewed vibrato, Ponty distinguished himself with be-bop era phrasings and a punchy style influenced more by horn players than by anything previously tried on the violin; nobody had heard anything quite like it before. Ponty’s reputation grew with remarkable leaps and by 1964, at age 22, he released his debut solo album, Jazz Long Playing. A 1966 live album called Violin Summit united Ponty on stage in Basel, Switzerland with such violin greats as Svend Asmussen, Stéphane Grappelli and Stuff Smith.
In 1967, John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet invited Ponty to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival. His appearance garnered thunderous applause and led to recordings with the Gerald Wilson Big Band and the George Duke Trio. Through the late-60s and early 70s, Ponty achieved mounting critical praise and popularity across Europe. In turn, the violinist soon found his signature talents in demand by top recording artists the world over.
Collaborations through the 1970s included four groundbreaking albums with Frank Zappa (who also wrote the music for Ponty’s solo album King Kong) and two with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as extensive touring with both the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Mothers of Invention. His solo career also flourished, with twelve consecutive releases (including Imaginary Voyage) all reaching the top five on the Billboard jazz charts. In the 1990s Ponty worked extensively with guitarist Al Di Meola and bassist Stanley Clarke. More recently he has explored the music of other traditions, particularly the powerful polyrhythmic sounds of West Africa.
This was Jean-Luc Ponty’s first appearance in Ireland.
Jazz Violin Masterclass
When Thursday, 12 March 2009
Where National Concert Hall, Dublin, John Field Room
Waltons New School of Music
in association with National Concert Hall Learn & Explore
We thank Jean-Luc, the three violinists who participated in the masterclass, and accompanist So-Young Yoon for providing us with this unique learning experience.
The Irish Independent, 18 March 2009
Allegedly atmospheric, wafts of dry ice floating through the National Concert Hall add nothing to the first Irish visit of the Jean-Luc Ponty Quartet, which is sensational in its own right.
The outstanding William Lecomte, keyboards, Guy Nsangue Awka, bass, and Damien Schmitt, drums, join the amplified violin of classically trained virtuoso Ponty.
Taken from albums old and new, the group’s material is, to all intents and purposes, ‘contemporary’. Certain threads are a constant, but anyone hoping for tradition might find the Quartet at odds with their ideals. Ecstatic fans know what to expect and are not disappointed.
Without interval, the evening begins with ‘Point of No Return’. Engagingly simple to begin, one is soon engulfed in its wild and elaborate decorations. Ponty’s own capacity to darken his instrument’s tone means saxophone and trombone timbres emerge from its inner depths.
‘Celtic Steps’, dedicated to the Quartet’s Irish following, finds Lecomte weaving serpentine paths across his keyboard. Often zany, the piece is like a demonic ‘Riverdance’ spectacular.
Occasionally, Ponty tries an entry, but is restrained until he eventually secures a ‘col legno’ footing. But this is an orgiastic display in which Akwa’s bass is also allowed a mesmerising solo.
‘Suite’ and ‘The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea’ explode with fantastic bursts of energy, while the bitter sweet violin and piano duet – ‘Last Memories of Her’ – has shades of Grapelli in its gentler reflections.
An urgent air of spontaneity and amazing technique make ‘Cosmic Messenger’ and ‘Signals from Planet Earth’ phenomena of visionary character with Schmitt’s drumming utterly stunning. The Jean-Luc Ponty Quartet is extraordinary.