Anytime Jean Luc Ponty hits the road (as relatively rare as that may be in America), the French violin virtuoso brings along a varied program to match his current season of experimentation. For the second of two sold out shows at Chicago’s City Winery, this master of rock and jazz fusion (who’s also logged time with Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever and Yes’ Jon Anderson in the AndersonPonty Band) focused on a solo retrospective that took cues from his import only box set “Electric Fusion: The Atlantic Years.”
Yet more than any single instrumental or project from which they were culled, the 2017 edition of this outing was an ideal overall platform for Ponty’s advanced manner of playing and composing.
While the generous evening spread out between two sets looked back on the bulk of his work from the 1970s and ‘80s, Ponty, keyboard/piano player Wally Minko, guitarist Jamie Glaser, bassist Baron Browne and drummer Rayford Griffin made sure these works were a living, breathing exercise in improvisation, rather than merely a rote recreation. Sure, a combined “Imaginary Voyage Part 1/Cosmic Messenger,” “The Struggle Of The Turtle To The Sea” and “Jig” all resembled the recordings, but each came across with additional depth and liveliness courtesy of these prodigious players (who also contributed to the original albums).
The standing room only crowd appeared to consist of mainly die-hard appreciators, who cheered during every exiting addition and subtle nuance, but Ponty’s cerebral foundation also possessed an underlying accessibility. Take for instance the hushed and mystical “Mirage,” which conjured up the exact images of its namesake, or “Elephants In Love,” an adventurous excursion into the wild filled with thumping footsteps.
Yet more than any single instrumental or project from which they were culled, the 2017 edition of this outing was an ideal overall platform for Ponty’s advanced manner of playing and composing. Even more remarkable is the fact that at 74-years-old, he performs like a much younger man with a sincere spirit that trades pretentiousness for an entirely down to earth appreciation of everyone’s ongoing support.
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For additional information on Jean Luc Ponty, visit Ponty.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at City Winery include Funkadesi (Jun. 21); Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Jun. 22); Lynne Jordan & The Shivers (Jun. 23); Griffin House (Jun. 25); William Elliott Whitmore (Jun. 26); Michelle Shocked (Jun. 27); International Bob Dylan Tribute (Jun. 28); Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers (Jun. 29); Holly Bowling (Jun. 30-Jul.1); Eric Roberson (Jun. 30-Jul. 1); The Capitol Steps (July 2); The Church (Jul. 3-4); Zoso (Jul. 5); Freddy Jones Band (Jul. 6); Dweezil Zappa (Jul. 7); Rhett Miller (Jul. 9); Les Nubians (Jul. 10); Louis Prima Jr. & The Witnesses (Jul. 11); Graham Parker Duo (Jul. 12); Matthew Sweet (Jul. 13-14) and Squirrel Nut Zippers (July 16). For additional details, visit CityWinery.com/Chicago.