Jean-Luc Ponty

  • Violin
Performs on:
Has also played in:
After studying classical violin at the Paris Conservatory, Jean-Luc Ponty turned to jazz in the 60s and became a true pioneer in the area of jazz and rock. The great American jazz violinist Stuff Smith hearing Ponty at that period said “he is a killer, he plays on the violin like Coltrane does on sax” (Jazz Encyclopedia In The Sixties by Leonard Feather). In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976, Stéphane Grappelli said “No he is not a student, only a great friend...he is a great musician and invented a new style on the violin”. Thanks to his revolutionary style he collaborated with some of the best European and American musicians through the late 60s such as Eddy Louiss, Daniel Humair, Niels-Henning-Ørsted Pedersen, John Lewis, Lalo Schifrin, Quincy Jones and George Duke among others. He became the first bebop violinist and U.S. jazz magazine ‘Down Beat’ created a violin category for him in its critics’ poll, until then violin was in the ‘miscellaneous instruments’ category. Then his pioneering work on the electric violin in the 70s attracted the attention of pop and rock musicians, he recorded with Elton John and participated to several tours and legendary recordings with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. In 1975 he founded his own band in Los Angeles and signed a long term contract with Atlantic Records, he recorded 12 albums between 1975 and 1985. He was able to create a signature sound thanks to his compositions mixed with a very original use of electronics and he became one of the most prominent figures of the jazz-fusion movement in the USA, selling millions of albums that all reached the top of the U.S. charts. Ponty also collaborated on occasional projects such as The Rite of Strings, an acoustic trio with bassist Stanley Clarke and guitarist Al Di Meola. In 2011 Ponty joined the mythical American group RETURN TO FOREVER IV with Chick Corea - Stanley Clarke - Lenny White and Frank Gambale for a world tour spanning on 5 continents. In 2012 Ponty performed his music with Orchestre Pasdeloup for his 50-year career celebration at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, then performed this music again with symphony orchestras in Brazil, Germany, Hungary and Russia. In 2013 Herbie Hancock invited him to perform in Istanbul at "International Jazz Day" for UNESCO with a cast of jazz stars such as Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin and George Duke to name a few. Ponty also founded a new quartet with his daughter, pianist-singer-composer Clara Ponty. From 2014 through 2016 Jean-Luc has recorded and toured in the USA and Canada with the Anderson Ponty Band, co-lead by Jon Anderson, cofounder and lead singer of British progressive rock band YES. In 2015 Ponty released an album of acoustic jazz called “D-Stringz” (Impulse/Universal) with Stanley Clarke on double bass and Gypsy-French guitarist Bireli Lagrene. Ponty also toured in 2017-2018 as an acoustic trio with Bireli Lagrene and Kyle Eastwood on double bass. Besides a Grammy Award nomination in America, Ponty received numerous Lifetime Achievement awards in France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Croatia, Serbia and Russia. The concept of his current tour named “The Atlantic Years” is to revisit some of his classics from the 70s-80s with his Quintet, as a tribute to his long time fans.