[Review] Jean-Luc Ponty: Upon The Wings of Music (1975)

Ponty left Mahavishnu for a view of his own, releasing the first of many excellent jazz fusion albums.

Kronomyth 7.0: Vishnu were here.

Jean-Luc Ponty, of late last seen in the employ of Messrs. Zappa and McLaughlin, signed as a solo artist with Atlantic and began releasing his own brand of fusion. Upon The Wings of Music features, in essence, a slightly inverted Mahavishnu lineup: bassist Ralphe Armstrong, drums, keyboards and guitar, with the violin in the role previously held by the guitar. The novelty of hearing the violin in the lead role is augmented by the fact that Ponty runs his (often) electric violin through various effects as a lead guitarist might do. Combined with the fact that Ponty’s arrangements rarely accord much of a role to the electric guitar, the guitar fusion equation inversion is complete.

Of course, Upon The Wings of Music isn’t simply a matter of modifying Mahavishnu and Zappa for the violin. There is some of that, yes, but Ponty has a more human vision of fusion: positive, innocent, maybe even a little naïve (in the nicest way). For every fiery passage and tortuous time change there are dreamy, sentimental sections. And then there are the unexpected departures, like “Echoes of the Future,” which could have come from Tangerine Dream.

By shifting moods and changing the voice of the violin, Ponty keeps this album fresh and interesting. It’s not the technically stunning statement of Al DiMeola’s first album, but how many people were going to drool over a violin solo anyway? What Ponty does here is establish his instrument as a unique (and sustainable) voice in a fusion field where most folks went down either the guitar or horn path. King Kong may have caught everyone’s attention, but it was here that Ponty’s solo career took flight in earnest.

Original elpee version

A1. Upon The Wings of Music (5:24)
A2. Question With No Answer (3:25)
A3. Now I Know (4:25)
A4. Polyfolk Dance (5:10)
B1. Waving Memories (5:40)
B2. Echoes of the Future (3:08)
B3. Bowing-Bowing (4:52)
B4. Fight For Life (4:34)

All selections composed and arranged by Jean-Luc Ponty.

The Players

Jean-Luc Ponty (electric violin, violectra, acoustic violins, strings synthesizer), Ralphe Armstrong (bass guitar, electric bass), Ndugu (Leon Chancler) (drums, Remo roto toms, percusion), Patrice Rushen (electric piano, acoustic piano, synthesizer, organ, clavinet), Dan Sawyer (electric guitar) with Ray Parker Junior (electric guitar, guitar solos). Produced by Jean-Luc Ponty; engineered by Larry Hirsch; mixed by Larry Hirsch, Kerry McNabb.

The Pictures

Photo by Christian Simonpietri. Design by Abie Sussman. Art direction by Bob Defrin.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in February 1975 in the US, Australia and Canada (Atlantic, SD/CS 18138), the UK (Atlantic, K50149), Germany (Atlantic, ATL 50149), Japan (Atlantic, P-10051A) and Spain (Atlantic, HATS 421-169). Reached #158 on the US charts and #33 on the US Jazz Albums charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on November 5, 2002 in the US (Collectables Jazz Classics, 6330).
  2. Re-released on super high material compact disc on October 21, 2015 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-16744).

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