Jean-Luc Ponty is a well known, excellent, and legendary jazz and jazz fusion French violinist with an impressive life-long musical career spanning over 5 decades in time. He was born in Avranches, France in 1942 into a musical family (his father taught violin while his mother taught piano). At the age of 16, teenage Jean-luc Ponty was admitted to the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris, which he had subsequently graduated in 1960 with the highest academic honour, namely the Premier Prix (i.e. the First Prize). Afterwards, he performed with the Orchestre Lamoureux for the next three years.
While he was still performing with the Orchestre Lamoureux in Paris, Ponty developed an interest in jazz and performed in a jazz band as a clarinetist (his father also taught him clarinet). This jazz band that he performed in was a college jazz band which played for occasional local parties. As time passed by, his interest in jazz expanded even more, to the point that he became influenced by John Coltrane and Miles Davis, which paved the way for him to pick up the tenor saxophone.
During the mid 1960s, his refined art and work became more and more well known, while his music revolved at that time around a bebop style. So it is that in 1964, at the age of 22, young Jean-Luc Ponty released his debut studio album entitled ‘Jazz Long Playing’. As the 1960s came to an end, Jean-Luc Ponty started to collaborate with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. As the 1970s came about, Ponty emigrated with his family to the United States and started to collaborate with other artists such as Elton John or Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Throughout the next decades, he collaborated with a series of both American and international orchestras and focused on his solo career. Throughout his amazing and long musical career, he had released many studio and live albums. He had also collaborated with Chick Corea on several releasees as well as with Jon Anderson, in 2019, on the fifteenth studio album of the English progressive rock former frontman of Yes.
On a personal note, since listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra (which I started in early high school) and, implicitly, to amazing violinist Jerry Goodman, never in my life have I actually listened to a better violinist than Jean-Luc Ponty, until I relatively recently discovered him through his fantastic studio album ‘Cosmic Messenger’ (1978). In point of fact, the two are quite on par for me, but Ponty seems to have the upper hand, so to put it, as of late in terms of personal preferred musical auditions.
Below are some of the most personal favourite songs by Jean-Luc Ponty. Enjoy and all the best!