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Jean-Luc Ponty Biography

Home > Music > P > Ponty, Jean-Luc > Biography

Birth Name: Jean-Luc Ponty
Birth Place: Avranches, France
Years Active: 1958-Present
Genres: Jazz, Jazz Fusion

Jean-Luc Ponty was born September 29, 1942 in Avranches, France and is a violinist and jazz composer. Ponty’s father taught him to play violin, while his mother taught him to play piano. By the time he was 16, Ponty was studying at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. Upon graduation, Ponty was hired by the symphony orchestra, Concerts Lamoureux, whom he played with for the next three years.

Ponty developed a unique and unusual sound on the violin, fusing the bebop sound of the era with the classical sound of the violin. Ponty's notoriety grew quickly both with his musical peers and throughout the jazz world. 1964 saw Ponty release his debut solo album, “Jazz Long Playing,” at the age of 22.

In 1967 Ponty performed with The Modern Jazz Quartet at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which led to a recording contract with the World Pacific label. This paring produced the albums, “Electric Connection” with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, and “Jean-Luc Ponty Experience” with the George Duke Trio.

As the 1960s came to an end and the 1970s emerged, Ponty’s reputation grew throughout Europe and the U.S. 1969 marked a collaboration with Frank Zappa on Ponty’s album, “King Kong,” followed by a collaboration with Elton John in 1972 on his, “Chateau,” album. By 1973, Ponty emigrated with his wife and children to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles.

Ponty signed with Atlantic Records in 1975. The next decade saw Ponty endlessly touring the world and releasing 12 albums, all of which peaked in the Top 5 of Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart. As the 1980s emerged, Ponty became a prominent figure in America's growing jazz-rock movement. In addition to his solo career, Ponty continued to perform with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Radio City Orchestra in New York, and the symphony orchestras in Montreal, Toronto, Oklahoma City and Tokyo.

In 1991 Ponty’s ground-breaking album, “Tchokola,” was issued, which featured acoustic and electric violins against polyrhythmic sounds of West Africa. In 1995 Ponty collaborated with guitarist Al Di Meola and bassist Stanley Clarke calling themselves, The Rite of Strings and recording a self-titled acoustic album.

From 1997- 2000, Ponty toured extensively, and in 2001 he founded his own record label, J.L.P. Productions, Inc., and released his “Life Enigma” album. Over the next decade, Ponty continued to tour the world and release album after album.

2005 marked a new project for Ponty, Trio!, with Stanley Clarke on double bass and Béla Fleck on banjo. In 2006 Ponty reunited his band, Jean Luc Ponty & His Band, with whom he recorded a new studio album, “The Atacama Experience.” In 2012 Ponty performed once again in his home land with guitarist Al Di Meola and bassist Stanley Clarke.