Friday, November 04, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Jazz Violin - Jean-Luc Ponty, by JD

The jazz/rock violinist Jean-Luc Ponty was born in 1942 in Avranches, France into a family of classical musicians so it was more or less inevitable that he would go into the 'family business' and become a professional musician.

After graduating from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris he was hired by the Concerts Lamoureux in which he played for three years. While still a member of the orchestra in Paris, Ponty picked up a side job playing clarinet (which his father had taught him) for a college jazz band, that regularly performed at local parties. 

It proved life-changing. A growing interest in Miles Davis and John Coltrane compelled him to take up tenor saxophone. One night after an orchestra concert, and still wearing his tuxedo, Ponty found himself at a local club with only his violin. 

Within four years, he was widely accepted as the leading figure in "jazz fiddle". At that time, Ponty was leading a dual musical life: rehearsing and performing with the orchestra while also playing jazz at clubs throughout Paris. The demands of this schedule eventually brought him to a crossroads. At the urging of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention who wanted him to join their tour, Ponty emigrated with his wife and two young daughters to the United States and made his home in Los Angeles.

Before Ponty there was, of course, Stephane Grappelli who was playing jazz long before Ponty was born. I wondered if they had ever recorded together and I found a number of videos but sadly no filmed performances. There may well be some somewhere but I can't find any so far.

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