Industry leader and icon....
NOT SURE WHY but most of the time it would never occur to me to not do something!
My mantra has always been Pourquoi Pas?, Porgue No?, Why Not ?
So when it came to me one day while doing some musical contemplating
what might others think?
I immediately thought why not ask?
And I reached out.
And they answered...
- a series of questions -
First Up, Jean Luc Ponty
Having met Jean Luc Ponty in the early 90's back stage at his concert in Indianapolis in a brief conversation we realized that evening was our shared birthday! I reluctantly (but did) pass along my first recording attempt and bid a quick farewell. So of course he was first to come to mind to begin what I hope to be a legacy of information for improvising string players world wide. I messaged him a reminder just a few months ago and request to answer these few questions.
Here's his reply.
What a classy guy in addition to industry leader in improvisation!
I remember meeting you at a concert I did in Indianapolis....in the late 80s ? right ? You asked me a question about Zeta which you were also playing and gave me your CD.
So thanks for your message, and for the French translation, half of which is correct, and the other half is.....hilarious....Google ? or another program.....like Fan is translated into the French as "electric fan" - so thank you Cathy for being my Big electric fan ....AJ anyway, nice to hear from you, and thanks for being such a long time fan indeed.
Jean Luc Ponty
The Questions -
• How Do You Describe Your Music?
JLP: I don't, or I am fine being labeled "jazz" in a broad sense. My music is based on different elements, some call it "jazz fusion", bascially I leave it up to critics.
• Whats Your Latest Project?
JLP: The Acatama Experience was my last studio recording project with my band 5 years ago. As for live performances I was invited to play my music with 2 symphony orchestras recently, one in Paris last April 2012 and one in Curitiba, Brazil in early October, then with a jazz big band in Frankfurt / Germany last week. A lot of work to prepare so many new arrangements of my compositions, but worth the effort, the results were very exciting and beyond my expectations.
• Do You Play More Then One Instrument? Do You Recommend That?
JLP: do you mean different instruments ? yes I also learned piano and clarinet. clarinet got me into jazz, piano was a great tool as a composer. If you mean playing different violins, I do that too, to get the right sound, either more acoustic or more electric depending on the band instrumentation I play with.
• Who Are Some Other Players You've Enjoyed Collaborating With?
JLP: Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Allan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin, just to name a few.
• Who would you like to play with that you haven't?
JLP: I have focused on developing my music concept ever since I started my own band in the mid-70s and have not really been looking so much to collaborate with other players. Collaboration offers came my way spontaneously some of which I was very happy to accept, and these were very stimulating.
• Where Has Been One of Your Favorite Places to Perform?
JLP: There are several cities in the U.S. and in South America at the top of my list, Detroit and Santiago, Chile just to name two where audiences have always been very hot.
• Favorite Gear?
JLP: It is always changing as I am discovering new toys. Down to almost nothing today. I came back to my old Barcus-Berry wood-finish violin that they made for me in 1980, D'Addario strings and great small preamps either by L.R. Baggs, or Radial PZ, all that info can be found in the equipment page in my website at ponty.com
• Fav Summer Camps or Educational Opportunities?
JLP: I have never attended nor taught at any summer camp, Berklee School of Music in Boston is in my opinion among the best places to learn improvisation and modern styles on string instruments. I teach very rarely but did a couple of master classes there.
• Who do you like to listen to?
JLP: I like to discover young players, several send me their recordings, otherwise I have no time to listen to music, or read or watch TV - I have never been so busy in my life. In the 70s through the 90s I was mostly touring in the U.S. - South America and Europe. Now I often go to far away countries like India, Russia etc., long travels, and I so far I have spent most of the year working on arrangements for symphony orchestra, big band etc. and emails, so many emails from fans, from young violinists asking questions about technique, or equipment etc. - I will have to wait until I retire to have time to sit down and listen to music again.
• What Do You Recommend to an aspiring Improviser?
JLP: There were no jazz schools in my youth, I think good programs can help acquire more knowledge about music theory with improvisation as a goal. However too much schooling can lead to everyone using the same formulas. One truth that should work for everyone, which was also what Charlie Parker was saying, first you study carefully the chord changes on which you have to improvise to a point where you don't have to think about them anymore and let your feelings guide you while improvising, instead of your intellect.
• How Do You Overcome Self Conscience Playing?
JLP: I focus on feeling the emotion that inspired a specific song, not only while improvising but also when playing melodies, trying to forget everything physical around me, sort of a metaphysical approach.
• Any Other Tips On Performance Practices?
JLP: Different performers might have different practicing habits. Personally I warm up doing basic technical exercises learned from classical music, scales and arpeggios, then I prepare backgrounds for difficult pieces in Pro Tools or Logic and export them as audio files in iTunes so I can practice them on the road as well.
• Final thought: philosophy, quote...anything at all...
JLP: I am better at musical quotes and leave this to philosophers, spiritual leaders etc.
My favorite recording of Jean Luc here: