Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jean-Luc Ponty - 1983 "Individual Choice"

Individual Choice is an album by French jazz fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty that was released in 1983. Here is Ponty's radical break with his past, one that further tightened his control over his craft while ironically liberating his muse. In laying out his attractive new music on synthesizers and sequencers, emphasizing revolving ostinato patterns, Ponty rejuvenated his melodic gift, and as a result, even in this controlled setting, his violin solos take on a new freshness and exuberance. Except for two tracks, Ponty does without a formal rhythm section -- and on two other tracks, he goes it completely alone. Indeed, he does best of all when he has no one but himself to play with on "Computer Incantations for World Peace" and the lovely mood piece "Eulogy to Oscar Romero." Guest interloper George Duke (a fellow refugee from Frank Zappa's band) contributes a Minimoog solo to ""In Spiritual Love," where Ponty provides his own percussive backing on rhythm computer. Even if one grumbles on principle about the reduction of spontaneity in Ponty's music over the Atlantic years, the musical end here absolutely justifies the means. Don't miss it.

Recorded in 1983 in Los Angeles, this is JLP's first recording where he plays all the violin, synthesizer and rhythm computer parts, using one of the very first sequencers, except for one piece which was recorded with Allan Holdsworth (guitars) Randy Jackson (bass) and Rayford Griffin (drums). George Duke (synthesizer) and Allan Holdsworth also contribute their solos to two other pieces. The title track was used for a revolutionary promotional video made of time lapse photography by Louis Schwartzberg.

On 1983’s Individual Choice, Ponty begins to abandon the drum-keys-bass-guitar-violin formula that he’s used since Upon The Wings Of Music in favor of experimenting with differing configurations to fit the compositions. The result is an album that creates more mood than sponteniety, a kind of hybrid between fusion and new age.

And while I’m not a big new age guy, Ponty manages to add just enough improvision, clever arrangements and compositional skills to keep me interested. The result is an album that isn’t quite as consistent as Mystical Adventures; however, the peaks reach greater heights, because more often than not, the risk taking pays off.

The opener is probably the most New Age-ish of the whole album. But the sequencer excercise “Computer Incantations for World Peace” gets rescued by Ponty’s five string violin in the second half of the song.

Following is the first appearance of the rhythm section and Rayford Griffin is a major force on the drums. That and a killer chord sequence in the head make “Far from the Beaten Paths” one of Ponty’s best rockers of all time.

Following is Ponty (mostly) solo again, where on “In Spiritual Love” Ponty programs all the synths and percussion, as well as violin, both plucked and bowed. But the addition of a masterful mini Moog solo by old cohort George Duke–who recorded his part remotely in his own studio–gives the whole song a kick in the pants.

The flip side of Individual Choice begins with a brief synthesized mournful tribute to murdered Salvadoran
archbishop Oscar Romero. The next track “Nostalgia”, like “In Spiritual Love”, is Ponty again providing an ideal setup for his guest soloist; an affecting melodic line provides the perfect mood for guitarist Allan Holdsworth’s weeping, legato lines.

The title song that follows is Ponty doing all the work again. However, with no foil this time around, it isn’t quite as interesting. Finally, the full band appears again for only the second time on the closer “In Spite Of All”, highlighted by Ponty trading fours with Holdsworth. Indeed, I wouldn’t have minded at all if Holdsworth had appeared on every track.

Nowadays, Jean-Luc Ponty is still performing and after a long lay over, is finally recording records again. I sometimes wonder what has happened to some of the other musicians on these two records discussed here, as they were all quite talented. But after hearing nothing about him for many years, I know now what the bass player is up to.

If you want to know what he’s doing these days, just tune into American Idol tonight. He’ll be sitting on Paula’s right.

Track listing:

All songs by Jean-Luc Ponty.

1 "Computer Incantations for World Peace" – 5:41
2 "Far from the Beaten Paths" – 5:59
3 "In Spiritual Love" – 7:01
4 "Eulogy to Oscar Romero" – 2:32
5 "Nostalgia" – 5:02
6 "Individual Choice" – 4:56
7 "In Spite of All" – 5:55


Jean-Luc Ponty – violin, organ, synthesizer, keyboards, vocals, keyboard bass, rhythm programming
Allan Holdsworth – guitar
Rayford Griffin – drums, percussion
Randy Jackson – bass
George Duke – synthesizer, Mini-moog



  2. Merci beaucoup. J'adore J.-L. Ponty.