Jean-Luc Ponty: Open Mind (1984)

More violin music for happy robots. Like his last release, Individual Choice, this is a true solo album with Ponty playing violin, synthesizers and rhythm computer. (I don’t know how you play a rhythm computer, but it doesn’t sound fun.) His music having grown increasingly mechanical over the years, it was all beginning to sound like a digitized kaleidoscope: complex patterns shifting in the background while new sounds appear and disappear on the surface in colorful bursts. Many jazz fusion artists suffered the same mechanical mindmeld in the ‘80s. (Exhibit A: the synthesizer solos from Chick Corea on “Open Mind” and “Watching Birds.”) Ponty was probably better suited to cyborg jazz than most given his limited expression of late: pattern, solo, repeat. There is some freedom in the formula; “Orbital Encounters” could pass for a Frank Zappa track. And Ponty approaches his music with a joie de vivre that shines through the circuitry. But I’ve always felt that jazz does best in steamy and smoky settings. Open Minds is climate-controlled jazz fusion with Ponty potted and placed near a sealed, sunny window. Despite some dull moments, it’s not a bad record. “Open Mind,” “Orbital Encounters” and the rich, smooth flavor of George Benson on “Modern Times Blues” are enjoyable. However, a certain stinginess in packaging and performances conspires to make Open Mind one of his least essential efforts to date. For some reason (perhaps I’m attracted to the color red?), I’m most likely to pull out this or Mystical Adventures when I’m thusly violinclined, and after 20+ sittings it still hasn’t spun its spell.

Original LP Version
A1. Open Mind (8:05)
A2. Solitude (6:05)
A3. Watching Birds (4:57)
B1. Modern Times Blues (7:17)
B2. Orbital Encounters (5:14)
B3. Intuition (7:40)

All music composed and orchestrated by J.L. Ponty.

The Players
Jean-Luc Ponty (Barcus-Berry electric violin, synthesizers, rhythm computer, violectra, grand piano, Zeta electric violin and effects preamp, Barcus-Berry violin) with George Benson (guitar solo on A1), Chick Corea (synthesizer solo on A1/A3), Rayford Griffin (drums on B2), Casey Scheuerell (drums and tabla on A3). Produced by J.L. Ponty; recording and mix engineered by Peter R. Kelsey; additional overdub recording by Bobby Wagner.

The Pictures
Album cover concept by Claudia Ponty. Art direction & design by Bob Defrin.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in October 1984 in France and Germany (Polydor, 823 581-1Y/4), the US (Atlantic, 81085-1/4/2) and Japan (Polydor, 28MM 0405); reached #171 on the US charts and #5 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc on August 15, 2006 in the US (Wounded Bird, 8185).

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