Jean-Luc Ponty: Cosmic Messenger (1978)

cosmic messenger album coverJean-Luc Ponty continues to plumb his pleasant brand of fusion on Cosmic Messenger, keeping at its core the tight, circular patterns found in most of his work from this period. While there are a few tracks that stand out—the mesmerizing title track, the sentimental “I Only Feel Good With You,” the spiritual “Ethereal Mood”—most are indistinguishable from the bulk of his Atlantic output. While Ponty has toned down the violin solos, replacing them with guitar solos from Peter Maunu and Joaquin Lievano in many cases, the decision to keep the rest of the band bound to the same small circumference of music limits their impact. “Egocentric Molecules” does break things open, allowing Ralphe Armstrong and new drummer Casey Scheuerell to flex their muscles. The same can’t be said for “Don’t Let the World Pass You By,” “Fake Paradise” and “The Art of Happiness,” which are based in some cases on nothing more than a couple of notes seesawing back and forth. With the violin and guitars taking the lion’s share of the solos, keyboardist Allan Zavod recedes further into the background, which is something of a shame. Cosmic Messenger is enjoyable and engaging—really, all of Ponty’s albums are to a large extent—but like an animal on a leash it seems unable to stray for any length of time from its established idiom. Whether Cosmic Messenger is deemed consistent or redundant depends on your saturation point for Ponty’s music. Honestly, the tracks represented on the double-disc compilation Le Voyage are probably as much of this message as you need to hear.

Original LP Version
A1. Cosmic Messenger (4:38)
A2. The Art of Happiness (4:33)
A3. Don’t Let The World Pass You By (6:23)
A4. I Only Feel Good With You (3:05)
B1. Puppets’ Dance (3:40)
B2. Fake Paradise (5:41)
B3. Ethereal Mood (4:03)
B4. Egocentric Molecules (5:44)

All music composed and orchestrated by Jean-Luc Ponty.

The Players
Jean-Luc Ponty (five-string electric violin, electric violin, organ, lead synthesizer, orchestron, acoustic violin), Ralphe Armstrong (electric bass, fretless electric bass), Joaquin Lievano (electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Peter Maunu (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, guitar synthesizer), Casey Scheuerell (drums, percussion), Allan Zavod (electric piano, polyphonic synthesizer, lead synthesizer, grand piano, organ). Produced by Jean-Luc Ponty; engineered and mixed by Ed E. Thacker.

The Pictures
Cover concept by Claudia Ponty. Front cover painting by Daved Levitan. Back cover photo by Gary Heery. Inner sleeve photos by Sam Emerson.

The Plastic
Released on elpee and 8-track in 1978 in the US (Atlantic, SD/TP 19189), the UK (Atlantic, K 50505), Brazil (WEA, 30083) and Germany (Atlantic, ATL 50505) with picture innersleeve; reached #36 on the US charts and #2 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in July 1987 in the US (Atlantic, 19189-2/CS 19189).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-2095).
  3. Re-issued on cassette in 1993 in India (Magnasound, C11J0609).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc on January 16, 2009 in Japan (Warner, BELLE 081464).

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