Sunday, September 20, 2015

Jean-Luc Ponty - 1977 "Enigmatic Ocean"

Enigmatic Ocean is an album by French Jazz-Fusion artist Jean-Luc Ponty, released in 1977. It reached #1 on the Billboard Jazz album chart in 1977.

Consistently imaginative, Enigmatic Ocean is one of Jean-Luc Ponty's finest accomplishments. The French violinist recorded his share of fusion gems during the 1970s, and this album is at the top of the list. Often aggressive but sometimes reflective and moody, this CD is as unpredictable as it is adventurous. Ponty has plenty of room to stretch out, let loose, and blow, and electric guitarists Allan Holdsworth and Daryl Stuermer contribute some inspired solos as well. Also quite impressive is the insightful and passionate drumming of Steve Smith, who went on to lead the superb fusion band Vital Information. Ponty takes one risk after another, and all of them pay off beautifully.

Recorded in 1977 in Los Angeles with Allan Holdsworth and Daryl Stuermer (guitars) Allan Zavod (keyboards) Ralphe Armstrong (bass) and Steve Smith (drums). The song 'Mirage' was a big hit worldwide and is today in 2010 still one of JLP's most sampled songs by dance and rap groups.

In the mid-seventies, Jean-Luc Ponty was the most prominent Jazz violinist. Before he embarked on a successful solo career with his brand of Jazz-Rock, of which Enigmatic Ocean is one of his most memorable examples, he had already proven himself on the international stage having been part of Frank Zappa's band and a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's second lineup, where any remaining questions concerning his technical competence had been answered.

Jean-Luc Ponty's Jazz-Rock includes hectic instrumental pyrotechnics as well as Funk riffs. His improvisations move along modal scales, or they are more or less arpeggios built around harmonic structures found in European concert music. And to these guns, he sticks. It's a technically impeccably executed mainstream Jazz-Rock (that absolutely includes the band), which is why one shouldn't expect any explorations into new musical territories.

A high-class late 1970s fusion album from Jean-Luc Ponty, with unexpectedly catchy tunes showing a very mild (but quite noticeable) disco and funk influence. Whilst the idea of disco fusion might sound disastrous, Ponty and his backing musicians show superb judgement in precisely how much disco they allow to creep in, hitting a perfect balance where they use enough to keep things vibrant, energetic, upbeat and catchy, without going too far into schmaltzy kitsch territory. Ponty also makes sure to get the best use out of the talent available to him, the electric guitar contributions of Allan Holdsworth being particularly high quality.

The high point of Jean-Luc Ponty's career as a Jazz Fusion artist. This is a wonderfully powerful and inspired, yet sublime Jazz Fusion album. Ponty is at his prime as a violinist, and Ralphe Armstrong is, as usual, one of the best Bassists in Jazz. But what really raises Enigmatic Ocean over the rest of Ponty's works is the sheer quality of the rest of the musicians involved. Enigmatic Ocean features virtuosic Guitar work from Allan Holdsworth (Yes, THAT Allan Holdsworth) and Daryl Stuermer, and both are at the top of their game. And the utterly fantastic Drumming is from none other than Steve Smith. Yes, that Steve Smith, Journey's Drummer. For all those that think he's a nobody, listen to this. The songs on Enigmatic Ocean are incredible.

Tracks Listing

1. Overture (0:47)
2. The Trans-Love Express (3:56)
3. Mirage (4:54)
4. Enigmatic Ocean
Part I (2:20)
Part II (3:35)
Part III (3:43)
Part IV (2:24)
5. Nostalgic Lady (5:20)
6. Struggle Of The Sea Turtle
Part I (3:32)
Part II (3:33)
Part III (6:05)

Total Time 45:00


    Jean-Luc Ponty – electric violin, five-string electric violin, violectra, bells, grand piano on Nostalgic Lady
    Allan Holdsworth – lead electric guitar
    Daryl Stuermer – lead and rhythm electric guitar
    Allan Zavod – organ, synthesizer, electric piano, grand piano, clavinet
    Ralphe Armstrong – electric basses, fretless bass
    Steve Smith – drums and percussion



  2. 2 superb guitarists, the greatest ever violinist, all in their prime. Great.