Happy Birthday Jean Luc Ponty

September 29, 1942


A tribute to the great violinist

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Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty was born on September 29, 1942 in Avranches, France.

Part of a family of classical musicians, Ponty had classical violin lessons from an early age, graduating from the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris at 18.

He was part of a major symphony orchestra for three years but also played clarinet at the time with a college jazz band.

At first Ponty sought to separate his classical and jazz careers, playing tenor, but eventually he became a jazz violinist.

At 22 in 1964 he recorded his first solo album and in 1966 on Violin Summit he collaborated with the much older jazz violinists Stephane Grappelli, Stuff Smith and Svend Asmussen.

Ponty at the time was a forward-looking bebopper but by 1969 when he recorded with Frank Zappa, he was a fusion player who invigorated the music with his brilliance.

In 1972 he moved to the U.S., he toured with Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention, and during 1974 was a member of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Ponty made a major impact on the fusion world with his long string of albums for the Atlantic label during 1975-85.

Since that time, while mostly playing fusion, Ponty has also gone back now and then to exploring more straight ahead jazz including 1995’s The Rite Of Strings with Al DiMeola and Stanley Clarke, 2005’s Trio with Clarke and banjoist Bela Fleck, and an acoustic trio with Clarke and guitarist Bireli Lagrene in 2012-14.

One of jazz’s greatest violinists, Jean-Luc Ponty is seen here early in his career, playing “Rhythm-A-Ning” in 1968.

-Scott Yanow


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