Jean-Luc Ponty: A Taste For Passion (1979)

Or how I stopped worrying about being a middle-aged werewolf and learned to love the violin. A Taste For Passion is Jean-Luc Ponty’s most commercial album to date, with warm melodies and accessible arrangements that downplay the electric violin by giving equal time to the electric guitar. In fact, everyone has come up in the mix: the bass, drums and keyboards are no longer obscured by Ponty’s gratuitous solos but instead contribute as equal partners in the music. His earlier albums on Atlantic often utilized complex patterns that were repeated while the violin soared overhead; here that occurs only sparingly. By slowing things down, Ponty puts the emphasis on pretty music. “Stay with Me” sounds like Steve Hackett at his most lyrical, “Beach Girl” utilizes a variety of interesting ideas including a nice acoustic guitar solo from Joaquin Lievano. While a track like “Give Us a Chance” is a throwback to his earlier music, even here Ponty opens up the arrangement to include more space and find time for all of the instruments. The result often feels like “smooth” jazz rather than fusion, but that shouldn’t scare off Ponty’s fans. In fact, they may wonder why he didn’t think of this sooner. One knock on his earlier albums was the violin uber alles aesthetic; by letting his band carry their share of the weight the violin doesn’t lose its freshness. The closing “Farewell” for example balances the violin with Ralphe Armstrong’s fretless bass, and it’s a better song for it. Most of Jean-Luc Ponty’s Atlantic records live or die by his violin solos; A Taste For Passion will win or lose fans for its melodies. All things considered, this is a successful change of pace, even while it sacrifices the violin virtuosity of previous efforts.

Original LP Version
A1. Stay With Me (5:35)
A2. Sunset Drive (5:45)
A3. Dreamy Eyes (4:18)
A4. Beach Girl (4:56)
B1. A Taste For Passion (5:22)
B2. Life Cycles (5:45)
B3. Reminiscence (1:26)
B4. Give Us A Chance (3:20)
B5. Obsession (0:40)
B6. Farewell (3:06)

All music composed and orchestrated by Jean-Luc Ponty.

The Players
Jean-Luc Ponty (violin, organ, electric piano, grand piano), Ralphe Armstrong (electric fretless bass, solo), Jamie Glaser (electric guitar, solos), Joaquin Lievano (electric & acoustic guitars, guitar synthesizer, solos), Casey Scheuerell (drums, percussion), Allan Zavod (keyboards, synthesizer solos, synthesizer programming) with Allan Gelbard (synthesizer programming). Produced by Jean-Luc Ponty; engineered by Ed E. Thacker.

The Pictures
Photography by Gary Heery.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in August 1979 in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS/TP 19253), Canada (Atlantic, QSD 19253), Germany (Atlantic, ATL 50666) and Japan (Atlantic, P-10754A); reached #54 on the US charts and #4 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Atlantic, 19253-2).

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