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Jean-Luc Ponty

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Jean-Luc Ponty from 2015

How did your new Anderson Ponty Band project with Jon Anderson come about?

We met in the early 80s and talked about collaborating on a project some day. Thirty years later we crossed paths again and decided to do it. It felt so good when we started working on the music that I told Jon it was too bad we did not do it sooner. Jon replied "better late than never.” We had not finished the album but had already found its title.
MSJ: What can you tell me about the musicians in the band?
Wally Minko on keyboards, Rayford Griffin on drums, Jamie Glaser on guitar and Jamaican bassist Keith Jones have all played in my band in the 80s. It feels great to be reunited, but what is very stimulating is that this project is not about going back in time, but taking the music we were creating then, mine as well as Jon's classics, and making it evolve as well as writing new material. All band members have played with numerous great artists and are very versatile, they grew up with R&B, jazz, progressive rock and have a great connection with Jon as well, which was essential to make it work.
MSJ: What information can you give our readers about the upcoming release?
We all got together for the first time in Aspen last year and recorded and filmed our first show with studio quality equipment to have the live recording as a base. We re-arranged and created new material based on Jon's classics and mine, and as the music grew on us Jon added touches of vocals, and I added violin parts and other arrangements. Our goal was to have the raw energy of the live performance plus creative touches which make this album sound as good as a top studio production.
MSJ: How will the songs be chosen for the upcoming tour?
We are going to perform all songs from the album, our new material as well as Yes classics like “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Roundabout” and some of my classics like “Mirage,” “Renaissance,” “Enigmatic Ocean,” and we'll also leave room for improvisation.
MSJ: What can fans expect if they come to see you guys live?
For me music is metaphysical, we know that the songs we'll play have a wide dynamic range, from very high energy to meditative and poetic moods, but what I love about performing live is the unexpected, unique musical moments that can be influenced by emotions flowing from the stage to the audience and vice versa. So how about expecting the unexpected!
MSJ: Beyond APB, it’s been quite a few years since you did an interview with Music Street Journal. Can you catch the readers up on some of the other things you’ve been doing in recent years?
First I have kept touring and recording with my European Quartet until last year, then a real highlight and memorable project was touring and recording with Return To Forever IV in 2011, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Frank Gambale, such a great band. Then in 2012 I was invited to participate in International Jazz Day 2012 in Istanbul by Herbie Hancock who presides this yearly event. I played there with John McLaughlin for the first time since the 70s, along with a cast of jazz stars. Since then I also started performing some of my new music with symphony orchestras in several countries around the world, I love it and will do more.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I would be on welfare.....(laughs)...... there is nothing else I wanted to do since I was five years old.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music and/or streaming is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
There has always been some illegal use of music but never to such a big scale, the benefit of being exposed to new listeners is so little compared to the harm it does, and the cheap access to so much music is taking away income needed by young musicians to buy instruments, equipment, invest their time in practicing and creating music. I am among musicians who were extremely lucky to start in the 70s and 80s. It was heaven compared to now, so I had my share of the pie, but I am concerned for new generations, like my daughter Clara who is struggling. Should music be accessible for free? Fine with me if in return artists get everything for free, food, a place to live and all the rest.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Not good unless they contribute in other ways to artists.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Stevie Wonder, Sting, Steely Dan, Phil Collins, Daft Punk, Kraftwerk and Dweezil Zappa as a start and there would be the jazz stage with Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Bela Fleck, Return To Forever, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett, Allan Holdsworth and Al Di Meola, The Yellowjackets and more. That would be for this year then we'll see for next year. Anyone with enough money to put it together, let me know!
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
A virtuoso from Moldavia playing viola named “Anatol Stefanet” performing local music from the Balkans: amazing odd rhythms, so energetic, impressive!

 Have you read any good books lately?

Tesla - Man out of Time the biography of this amazing scientist Nikola Tesla by Margaret Cheney. Talking of injustice, this man should be known from everyone on the planet as much if not more than Edison.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
It was American classical violinist virtuoso, Joshua Bell, with symphony orchestra....fantastic! We might collaborate one day, could not be in 30 years like with Jon ...(laughs).
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
I don't even know. I will talk to a psychiatrist first and let you know.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Not exactly Spinal Tap, but I had a weird experience in 2014. I was performing outdoors with a symphony orchestra in Hungary. it was one of the sunniest and hottest summer days they had in decades. The stage was set in the beautiful park of Esterhazy Castle with a very elaborate stage decor. We had rehearsed for four days. The orchestra was excellent, and the music sounded so great. Then twenty minutes into the concert the wind started blowing, music sheets were flying onstage, musicians running after them. It was kind of hilarious, and we all started laughing when within a couple of minutes lightning, thunder, and very heavy wind started shaking the whole stage. We stopped in the middle of a tune, all musicians running offstage. The tent over the audience started shaking, and people started rushing to the parking lot. Then torrential rain came in, stage props, lighting trusts were falling down. I was with the orchestra conductor in a trailer which we used as dressing room. When it calmed down after two hours, we left. Everyone else had already disappeared. It was so frustrating for the musical experience but extremely lucky that no one was hurt.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Igor Stravinky, the late Afro-American jazz violinist Stuff Smith, and John Coltrane.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Russian caviar and vodka, Chicago pizza...assuming we would dine in Chicago, pumpkin pie, French champagne, red French Burgundy wine  and......hhhhmm.....perhaps that's enough. Oh....and mineral water to wash our fingers at the end!

Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

That's it......all the best
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 5 at
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
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