Jean-Luc Ponty - electric violin, keyboards; Allan Zavod - keyboards; Joaquin Lievano - guitars; Casey Scheuerell - drums, percussion; Jamie Glaser - guitars, organ; Ralphe Armstrong - bass
One of two shows recorded on this night at the legendary Tower Theater in Philly for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, this performance features Ponty at his most commercially viable. Although the jazz-fusion world that had been successfully developed by Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever was starting to wane, Ponty was able to keep the crowds coming for the first part of the 1980s (and long after the others had faded).
At the end of this performance, Ponty does a medley of three of his popular songs: "Ethereal Mood/Wondering On The Milky Way/Egocentric." Songs like these lend themselves to the notion that jazz-fusion is about the musicianship, and in some cases, just how fast any member of a band can play without making a mistake. The musicians here are truly exceptional, especially bassist Ralphe Armstrong, another alumnus (along with Ponty) of the Version II Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Ponty's musical diversity helped secure fans who otherwise may not have gone to a jazz-fusion concert. His upbeat and perky violin style naturally appealed to bluegrass fans, and his obvious inspiration from Stephane Grappelli, along with an open embracing of rock riffs, helped pair him with acts on rock shows while touring.
Ponty was a child prodigy from two professional French musician parents. After winning most of the classical violin competitions in France, he joined the French army in 1962. After leaving the armed forces in 1965, he totally embraced the gypsy-inspired jazz violin of Grappelli. In the early 1970s he joined Frank Zappa touring with the Mothers until becoming part of the re-vamped Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin after the demise of the original group. From there, he has spearheaded several solo and joint jazz-fusion projects, including an acoustic trio with Al Di Meola and Stanley Clarke. His biggest radio hit was the upbeat instrumental track, "New Country."