Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, One of the Jazz Fusion Fathers

Posted November 21st, 2011 at 8:22 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

French violonist Jean-Luc Ponty performs during the Nice Jazz Festival on July 23, 2008

French violonist Jean-Luc Ponty performs during the Nice Jazz Festival on July 23, 2008

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Jean-Luc Ponty is described as the “undisputed master of violin in the arena of jazz and rock.”

The French-born violinist and bandleader is one of the best jazz improvisers you can listen to.

Many people know him from his work in the 1970s with guitarist Frank Zappa, who left an impact on him, he says.

Ponty was a special guest on VOA’s Jazz America with my colleague Russ Davis.


The circumstances that introduced me to Jean-Luc Pony were a bit strange. It was 8:00 a.m. on April 16, 1986, the day after the U.S. bombed targets in Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya. At the time, I was inside a tall building in downtown Cairo where I worked for the West German Press Agency, DPA. I received a call from the BBC host of “The World Today” asking for comments on “Operation El Dorado Canyon,” the U.S. airstrike campaign against Libya. The strike was launched in response to Gadhafi’s alleged role in the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing.

I was tuning in to Libya’s radio stations to monitor the situation, so I could speak knowledgably about the Libyan position and reaction. But while dialing, I heard a violinist playing on one of the stations.  The music was great, and the artist was Jean-Luc Ponty. The song was: “Mirage”.

That was my first exposure to Ponty, one of the fathers of jazz fusion.

Ponty celebrated his 69th birthday recently.  He was born on September 29, 1942 in Avranches, France to a father who taught violin and a mother who taught piano. He studied music in France and at the age of 18, graduated from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris with the highest award, Premier Prix. Given his superior achievements and excellent grades, he was immediately hired by Concerts Lamoureux, one of the major symphony orchestras in France.

Ponty has released 49 albums and collaborated on hundreds of recordings.

In September 2009, he performed as a guest of the Chick Correa – Stanley Clarke – Lenny White Trio along with Chaka Khan for a special evening at the Hollywood Bowl.  Stevie Wonder showed up for a surprise jam session at the end.

Ponty is currently touring South America with a project called “The Atlantic Years,” featuring William Lecomte on keyboards and members of his American band from the 1980s: Jamie Glaser on guitar, Baron Browneon bass and Rayford Griffin on drums. He has performed at concerts in Argentina and Chile, and will soon be on his way for more performances in Brazil and Peru. Earlier, he toured with the new “Reutrn To Forever 4” group led by jazz icon Chick Corea (keyboards), Stanley Clarke (bass), Lenny White (drums), Frank Gambale (guitar). They first toured in Australia in February and for a series of additional concerts in Canada, Europe, Israel, USA, Japan and Corea between June 24 and October 14.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site,

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