Jean-Luc Ponty is a pioneer and undisputed master of violin in the arena of jazz and rock. He is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique visionary spin that has expanded the vocabulary of modern music.
Ponty was born in a family of classical musicians on September 29, 1942 in France. His father taught violin, his mother taught piano. At sixteen, he was admitted to a prestigious conservatory in Paris, graduating two years later with the institution’s highest award, Premier Prix. In turn, he was immediately hired by a major symphony orchestra, where he played for three years.
While still a member of the orchestra in Paris, Ponty picked up a side gig playing clarinet (which his father had taught him) for a college jazz band that regularly performed at local parties. It proved a life-changing jumping-off point. A growing interest in the jazz sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane compelled him to take up the tenor saxophone. Fueled by an all-encompassing creative passion, Jean-Luc soon felt the need to express his jazz voice through his main instrument, the violin.
So Ponty found himself leading a dual musical life: rehearsing and performing with the orchestra while also playing jazz until 3 AM at clubs throughout Paris. The demands of this doomed schedule eventually brought him to a crossroads… so he made a choice and took a chance with jazz, with a powerful sound that distinguished himself with be-bop phrasings and a punchy style influenced more by horn players than by anything previously tried on the violin.
His notoriety grew with remarkable leaps and by 1964, at age 22, he released his debut solo album. Since that time Ponty has been recording and touring the world with his own groups and has done collaborations with other great musicians including Allan Holdsworth, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, West African musicians, Bela Fleck, Lalo Schifrin, Chick Corea and Return To Forever IV, violinists Nigel Kennedy, Mark O’Connor, L. Subramaniam from India, singer Jon Anderson from Yes, and his daughter pianist-singer-composer Clara Ponty. Jean Luc has also performed his music with symphony orchestras in the U.S.A, Canada, Japan, Western and Eastern Europe, Brazil and Russia.