Jean-Luc Ponty: Electric Connection (1969)

Jean-Luc Ponty’s new American label, World Pacific Jazz, wasted little time in marketing their jazz violin phenomenon. Ponty was quickly paired with WPJ mainstay Gerald Wilson and his big band for an album of mainstream jazz/swing, Electric Connection. Wilson wrote the arrangements, Ponty provides the solos and a few original compositions, George Duke plays the piano, but the connection never really happens. Most of the time, Ponty’s violin seems out of place in the music or, more to the point, Wilson’s arrangements make space for the violin but rarely make good use of it. The idea of a violin in a jazz setting, especially one so free and fluid, is a novel and exciting concept. In my opinion, it deserved a novel and exciting setting, not a standard set of jazz/swing/funk that might have come from the soundtrack to a second-rate crime film. The rhythm section of Paul Humphrey and Bob West is at least sympathetic; Duke is criminally undermiked. If you’re interested in Ponty’s earliest work, I would start with the live recording at Thee Experience featuring the George Duke Trio. That show was an electric affair which gave the violin plenty of breathing room. On Electric Connection, unfortunately, the violin is something of a caged bird. You’ll encounter some nice solos (“Hypomode Del Sol,” “Forget”) and perhaps develop a deeper appreciation for the violin as a jazz instrument, but nothing on here will change your world. The kindess of critics toward this album is likely due to deference to the violinist himself; the music itself is merely adequate and ill-fitting.

Original LP Version
A1. Summit Soul (Jean-Luc Ponty) (4:34)
A2. Hypomode Del Sol (Jean-Luc Ponty) (6:15)
A3. Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Paul Simon/Art Garfunkel) (3:01)
A4. The Name of the Game (Dave Grusin) (5:10)
B1. The Loner (Cedar Walton/Ronnie Matthews) (4:07)
B2. Waltz For Clara (Jean-Luc Ponty) (5:08)
B3. Forget (Don Sebesky) (3:54)
B4. Eighty-One (Ronald Carter) (6:34)

Arranged and conducted by Gerald Wilson.

The Players
Jean-Luc Ponty (violin), George Duke (piano), Paul Humphrey (drums), Bob West (bass) with Richard Aplan (baritone saxophone), Thurman Green (trombone), Paul Hubinon (trumpet), Wilbert Longmire (guitar), Larry McGuire (trumpet), Tony Ortega (flute), William Peterson (trumpet), Tony Rusch (trumpet), Bud Shank (alto saxophone), Frank Strong (trombone), Mike Wimberly (bass trombone). Produced by Richard Bock; engineered by Lanky Linatrot.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in March/May (?) 1969 in the US (World Pacific, ST-20156) and the UK (World Pacific Jazz, LBS 83262). US version features gatefold cover.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1994 in Japan (Music Scene, MSIF-2182).
  2. Re-packaged with King Kong on 2-for-1 2CD in 2004 in the UK (Gott Discs, GOTTCD014).

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