Jean-Luc Ponty - electric violin, keyboards; Allan Zavod - keyboards; Joaquin Lievano - guitars; Casey Scheuerell - drums, percussion; Jamie Glaser - guitars, organ; Ralphe Armstrong - bass
The second of two shows recorded at the famed Tower Theater in Philly for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, this lively set features Ponty and his terrific band when his commercial success was at its peak. Opening with "Aurora" and working his way through such compositions as "Cosmic Messenger," "The Art Of Happiness," "The Struggle Of The Turtle To The Sea," and a twenty minute-plus medley of "Ethereal Mood/Wondering On The Milky Way/Egocentric," Ponty and his band show why they could transcend so many different styles of music and keep it all tied to a progressive jazz-rock fusion base. The highlight of the show, which marries high-energy bluegrass, rock and jazz is the radio favorite, "New Country."
With Jean Luc Ponty it is about the musicianship, and in many cases just how fast any member of his 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 and 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 1974, when he became 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.