JJ 04/84: Jean-Luc Ponty – Individual Choice

Forty years ago Mark Gilbert was glad of the moments of improvisation in a set dominated by computer sequencing. First published in Jazz Journal April 1984


Jazz phrasing can, of course, be played on any instrument, and the use of synthesisers need not in itself disqualify a musician from entering the hallowed halls of jazz fame. However, when, as here, repetitive, pre-programmed computer sequencer riffs are employed, it seems fair to suggest that the artist is not playing true to the sacred jazz ethic of group improvisation.

Which is not to say there is no improvisation here: though Ponty’s solos are brief, his powers are undiminished, and there are solos by George Duke and Allan Holdsworth.

As regards compositional style, one is often reminded of con­temporary minimalists like Philip Glass, and Computer Incantations evokes the atmosphere of the Indian raga. Spiritual Love is the nearest to an uncomplicated soul groove and Nostalgia sounds initially like any number of current electro-pop singles.

Ponty has described this music as ‘meditative’ and while this seems a reasonable overview, there are exceptions which might please the average jazzer.

Those looking for spontaneous interaction should hear the eight-bar trading between Ponty and Holdsworth on In Spite Of All. Ironically, Holdsworth manages to sound more violinistic than the leader. What a player!

Computer Incantations For World Peace; Far From The Beaten Paths; In Spiritual Love (18.38) – Eulogy To Oscar Romero; Nostalgia; Individual Choice; In Spite Of All (18.27)
Jean-Luc Ponty (syn/vn/kyb); Allan Holdsworth (g); Randy Jackson (b); Rayford Green (d/pc); George Duke (syn). Recorded 1983, Los Angeles.
(Polydor 817189-1)