Classics: Jean-Luc Ponty – Computer Incantations For World Peace (Atlantic)
French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty has become a major figure in the Jazz fusion scene since his debut back in 1963. Eventually collaborating with some of the greatest artists of all time. From Stéphane Grappelli to Frank Zappa and George Duke. But also John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Stanley Clarke to name a few.
He was certainly far from figuring that the opening cut from his 1983 released ‘Individual Choice’ album would get an echo 13 years after. This with Baltimore House production unit The Basement Boys borrowing parts of it on one of their compositions.
‘Computer Incantations For World Peace’ – that’s the track – comes with a title that speaks for itself. Thus givin’ the start of a trail as to what to expect. With Ponty delivering an atmospheric Electronic Jazz manifesto. Somehow flirting with Ambient, and most likely comin’ up under the form of waves standing as as many incantations.
To be honest, I have to admit I’d never heard of ‘Computer Incantations For World Peace’. This until I saw Tony Humphries playin’ it in Miami as an introduction to one of his memorable ‘Magic Sessions’. Meanwhile blending it with Those Guys‘ ‘Love, Love, Love’. And most definitely bringin’ many of the attendees once again under cloud nine at the end.
As a matter of fact, it’s quite ironical to notice that his label Stateside – Atlantic – passed on releasing it as a single. Obviously preferring ‘Far From The Beaten Paths’ for some reason. As for Polydor, who’d secured the license in his native country, they didn’t go further than a 7″ limited Promo release, and done. This showing once more as to how promoting Jazz artists has obviously never been an easy thing to do. Even though the man stands among the first Jazz musicians to have had a music video…
And you by the way. Have you ever heard of this gem? And if so, how did it come to your attention? Was any of you around by any kind of chance when Humphries played it in Miami?
A native of Avranches, France, Jean-Luc Ponty was born in a family of classical musicians. His father taught violin, his mother taught piano. At 16, he was admitted to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, graduating two years later with the institution’s highest award, Premier Prix. In turn, he was immediately hired by one of the major symphony orchestras, Concerts Lamoureux, where he played for three years.
While still a member of the orchestra in Paris, Ponty picked up a side gig. Playing clarinet (which his father had taught him) for a college Jazz band that regularly performed at local parties. It proved a life-changing jumping-off point. A growing interest in the Jazz sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane compelled him to take up the tenor saxophone. Fueled by an all-encompassing creative passion, Jean-Luc soon felt the need to express his Jazz voice through his main instrument. In other words, you’ve guessed it… The violin!
At first, the violin proved to be a handicap. As very few at the time viewed it 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. But also a punchy style influenced more by horn players than by anything previously tried on the violin. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty much fair to say nobody had heard anything quite like this before.
From then on, Ponty would establish himself among the top names in the Jazz scene. Joinin’ the Mahavishnu Orchestra on a couple of albums. But also collaborating with luminaries such as Stanley Clarke, Lalo Schifrin and Chick Corea to name a few. In the meantime, he has released more than 40 albums to this day. With his 1983 effort of the likes – ‘Individual Choice’ – givin’ us the opportunity to evoke his legacy on these shores. And, more precisely, its opening cut – ‘Computer Incantations For World Peace’ – which The Basement Boys brillantly sampled. This some 13 years later on the firing ‘Love, Love, Love’ by the likes of Those Guys.