I was in college when I discovered Jean Luc Ponty. My friend Tom had a copy of Enigmatic Ocean and he played it for me and I loved Ponty's style of jazz-rock fusion.
Shortly thereafter, I headed to the local used record store to add Enigmatic Ocean, Cosmic Messenger, and Imaginary Voyage to my vinyl collection.
I spent many hours replaying these albums and others over the years; but I never had the chance to see Jean Luc in concert.
Until last night.
Jean Luc Ponty and his band played 2 sold out shows at Chicago's City Winery Monday and Tuesday night. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Monday night show.
Ponty is focusing this tour on "The Atlantic Years" - performing the songs he recorded in the 1970s and 1980s - exactly the time that I discovered him.
Ponty, now 74 years old, brings the energy of a much younger man to his performance. He played 2 sets and 1 encore over more than 2 hours, drawing music from the 1970s and 80s.
As one would expect from a craftsman like Ponty, he surrounded himself with top-notch musicians for this tour: Jamie Glaser on guitar; Wally Minko on keyboards; Baron Browne on bass; and Rayford Griffin on drums. The group was talented and tight and matched Ponty's energy.
Jean Luc did not speak much between songs, which allowed him to focus on the music; but it was good to hear he retained his accent from his youth in France.
He closed his second set with an amazing version of Enigmatic Ocean, which began slowly and ethereally before building to a rocking frenzy.
Local violinist Edgar Gabriel joined the band on stage for an encore to match Ponty's and the band's intensity for one extended song.
Jean Luc Ponty changed the way we view the violin in jazz music and he continues to turn heads today. I was happy to finally catch his energy in concert.