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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jean-Luc Ponty

Life Enigma

Review by Gary Hill

Jean-Luc Ponty's particular blend of fusion type music has always been intriguing and his violin work has always been top notch. I have included this review in the progressive rock category because I really feel that it fits the bill. This album is a fine, if somewhat sedate, return for Ponty. Several of the tracks here are one man, or nearly one-man shows, with Ponty carrying all, or nearly all of the instruments. If you were a fan in the day, by all means pick this one up. If you have not had the pleasure and enjoy progressive oriented fusion instrumental work, Life Enigma is a definite recommend for you as well.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Two Thousand One Years Ago
Starting in a pretty almost new age mode, as the cut begins to evolve it starts moving in some very intriguing patterns. Ponty's violin stylings are showcased quite well on this number.
Signals From Planet Earth
This one is a lot more high energy than the previous number. At times Ponty chooses notes that seem to jab at the air. This is a great cut that builds on one basic mode, but still keeps evolving and progressing within that zone.
The Infinite Human Caravan
Feeling rather mysterious at the onset, the cut has a great retro jazz sort of sound as the basis. It is upon this background that Ponty draws his aural pictures in poetic ways. The percussion has a Latin sort of feel to it.
Lonely Among All
With a slow and sedate intro, this one begins a leisurely building process. The violin line here comes across a bit playful at times, presenting an interesting contrast to the almost somber mode that the other instruments create. The composition goes through numerous changes, but still stays pretty close to its roots.
Firmament
This one comes across as rather in a new age sort of format, and in its meandering takes on a mode that feels a bit oriental at times. The percussion really stands out on this one. As the cut continues it gains energy from time to time leaving behind that more sedate mode. This one really smokes after a while. The piano solo is a great old time jazz textured one that is very effective. At over 7 minutes this is the longest piece on the album.
Pizzy Cat
A track recorded entirely by Ponty in one take, no overdubs, this one is tender and at times rather majestic. It can also be a bit playful and even a little mysterious at times.
Life Enigma
Another sedate number, this one has a good deal of mystery and splendor to it. The cut evolves and grows in very natural ways with the song becoming more and more jazzy as it carries on. The cut gets a bit weird at times, in a great way.
Even The Sun Will Die
Majestic in its textures, this one comes in strong and begins a wonderful wandering around the melody and percussion lines. It really starts smoking later on, exploring some great mysterious sounding modes. This is a killer cut and one of the best on the disc. The violin work, stellar throughout the disc, really shines on this track. The changes at points call to mind the arrangements of such groups as Yes and Genesis.
Love At Last Sight
Beginning with percussion, this one comes across in the early modes both as rather classical in texture and a bit playful. It becomes more serious and straight jazzy fusion as it carries on, the cut moving in some wonderful directions.
And Life Goes On
Probably the most up-tempo number on the album, this one closes out the disc in fine toe-tapping fashion. It is a great fun sort of jam.
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