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Jean-Luc Ponty — Life Enigma
(JLP-001, 2001, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2002-04-01

Life Enigma Cover artI’m probably not unique in my history with Jean-Luc Ponty. I discovered his inventive, melodic jazz-fusion violin playing with his albums of the seventies like Enigmatic Ocean and Imaginary Voyage, then lost track of him during the 80s. I was aware that he kept working, but his New Age direction did not interest me much. So it was with great interest that I decided to check out this new CD, which was billed as a synthesis of all of Ponty’s styles, including the fusion of the earlier days. I am sad to report that there is actually fairly little of the old style present on this release. Ponty’s beautiful tone on the electric violin is readily recognizable, and there are some hints of those lushly voiced unison parts we loved, but they are for the most part backed by sterile drum machine programming and emotionless digital keyboards. A few tracks do feature musicians other than Ponty: bassist Guy Nsangué Akwa appears frequently, Thierry Arpino and Moustapha Cissé provide some drums and percussion from time to time, and William Lecomte plays piano on two cuts. Unfortunately, these accomplices appear on a series of mellow tracks that fuse Lite Jazz, New Age, and World Beat. The lack of energy really detracts from some decent writing. I have nothing against drum machines categorically. Like any other piece of musical technology, it’s what you do with them that counts. Unfortunately, Ponty’s brilliance on the violin does not carry over to electronic drum programming.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 24, 2001 releases

Related artist(s): Jean-Luc Ponty

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