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Jean-Luc Ponty - Upon The Wings Of Music CD (album) cover

UPON THE WINGS OF MUSIC

Jean-Luc Ponty

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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The Owl
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars While still in the Mahavishnu Orchestra MK II, Jean Luc concocted his first fully electric solo outing. While not as fully realized as subsequent albums, this at least strongly pointed the way he would be heading shortly.

The opening title track with its insistent drumming by Ndugu Leon Chancellor roars out of the gate with Ponty soaring over the top of the maelstrom with a beautifully constructed melody here! "Question With No Answer" features a beautiful plaintive piano intro from Patrice Rushen just before Jean Luc enters with the song's probing, insistent melody, gradually building momentum as the full band enters to a rousing conclusion. "Now I Know" is a moody ballad with dreamy Herbie Hancock-esque Rhodes from Patrice as Jean-Luc spins out haunting melodies. Things pick up again with "Polyfolk Dance" featuring some cool odd-meter passages. One thing the album as a whole is lacking in is strong guitar work (the contributions of Dan Sawyer and Ray Parker Jr. are at best serviceable and generic), the solo on here is a bit cliched and irritating with its angry mosquito tone.

Also featured is a solo violin piece "Echoes Of The Future" with Ponty employing an Echoplex for layering figures on top of one another, something that would become one of his trademarks.

The rest of the tracks are decent enough fusion, but in subsequent albums, Ponty's compositional prowess would grow like mad.

A good solid start, all told.

Report this review (#55869)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a VERY good fusion album. The keyboards used belong to the standard old technology: there are tons of piano and Fender Rhodes a la George Duke, among others: it is hard to believe that all the excellent keyboards are played by Jean-Luc Ponty himself! The good bass and drums are very elaborated and restless. The omnipresent electric violin here has lots of effects in its sound, as usual. Some parts are slightly experimental but it is not bad at all. It is not always fast with the instruments loaded to the maximum: the violin sound is sometimes floating like if Ponty was retaining his note, wanting to show more the effects added to the sound. There are electric guitar arrangements, rather discreet in order to leave the room to the electric violin, that accompany the rest of the music. I think this record is less accessible and more loaded & elaborated than his following ones.
Report this review (#57170)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

After Ponty has left the Mahavishnu Orchestra (or after the group broke-up, whichever), Ponty started his own solos career (although he had a few albums recorded during the 60's, most progheads - I included - became aware of his high-profile albums with this album. Obviously, this album's success was encouraging enough Ponty to try to emulate this album's feel (or formula if you wish) on the next albums to come and it will benefit him, even if he will never sell enormously (even on a jazz scale) either.

What we have here is a JR/F so typical of the second half of the 70's, which could've easily been released on the ECM label, with all the aspects concerned including that soft jazz feel of those years coming close to elevator music. Do not get me wrong, I am not downing JLP's music far from it, as there are some superb moments (notably Now I Know), but there is no groundbreaking scheme, no incredibly soul-liberating moments, just pleasant music with a lot of good moments, but never Nirvana is approached All of his musicians are absolute professionals with excellent mastery of their respective instruments, but maybe this is exactly why those Ponty albums (and so many other JR/F albums of the second half of the 70's) fail to arouse my utmost admiration: they are PROFESSIONAL, business as usual, just another day's meal ticket, well I think you get the picture by now. This should not let you get the idea that I do not like UTWOM, there are some delightful moments (the middle section of waving memories for one), but none crossing the boundary to musical paradise.

As a matter of fact, I would almost recommend this album as a starting point if it was not for the (excellent) Live album, which unsurprisingly will offer you an outstanding selection of their more exciting moments. The downside of this approach is that it can only be downhill from there. But for those already a bit familiar with jean-Luc's works, this album is one of his better ones. Still not essential, though except in capturing Ponty's works.

Report this review (#84045)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Contrary to the biography here on www.progarchives.com, this (not "Aurora") is the beginning of the classic J-L P jazz/prog-rock era. J-L P was still a member of the (second) Mahavishnu Orchestra when this was recorded.

J-L P's classic pentology (quintology) began here (1975) and ended 3 1/2 years later with "Cosmic Messenger" (1978). In retrospect, a remarkably prolific run by the Frenchman...

This album contains less "flashy" playing from J-L P than his later albums, with more of a focus on maintaining the moods of the pieces...it's a trade-off, but it worked, because as time goes on, this album remains enjoyable because of the focus on the melodies rather than "showing off"...

For those who crave lightning-fast "Pontyesque" solos, "Fight For Life" is the tune for you here. It's really that track and tracks 1-4 that make this an essential J-L P release.

1. Upon the Wings of Music **** (4) 2. Question With No Answer ***** (5) 3. Now I Know ***** (5) 4. Polyfolk Dance ***** (5) 5. Waving Memories *** (3) 6. Echoes of the Future *** (3) 7. Bowing Bowing **** (4) 8. Fight for Life ***** (5)

4 Stars - An excellent recording

Essential for J-L P fans.

Report this review (#97779)
Posted Thursday, November 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It swings, it grooves, it wah-wahs: it's an electrified violin! When Jean-Luc Ponty recorded this album for Atlantic in 1975 he was a veteran of Frank Zappa's band, had toured with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and taken Stefan Grappelli's baton (should that be bow?) on the run. This is an album full of invention and melody: it really nails what jazz-rock should be about with tunes, riffs and great ensemble playing. Patrice Rushen is marvellous on keyboards: sprightly on electric piano and tasteful on synthesisers. Guitars by Dan Sawyer and Ray Parker Junior are strong but held in check by the well-structured tunes. Demonstrating more than just velocity and technique, this set of pieces shows that fusion could be stylish and entertaining. Take a flight with Mr Ponty. RATING: Vision & Innovation: 23/30; Playing and Composition: 26/30; Listener Enjoyment: 26/30; X-Factor [cover, rosin, reviewer bias]: 7/10. Total: 82/100 -> 4 Stars.
Report this review (#247003)
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is JLP back to the recording studio under his name and with in a new style (jazzfusion) after several years as side man for Frank Zappa and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. As far as I know this is JLP´s more ecclectic Lp of his mid 70's fusion period. He brought in the funky Ralph Armstrong on bass from his former year sojourn in the MO and Ngudu (from The Crusaders/WReport) on drums; Their black funk influence is immediately felt on the lively opening funkyfusion of the title track, where Patrice Rushen excels on the Rhodes and on the clavinet. QwnA is a poignant acoustic piano and double tracked violin piece. A burning violin solos over beautiful Rhodes, round bass and hard hitting fat drums on the laid back NIK follows. An inspired MO influenced track closes side 1, with a flashy distorted guitar solo by Ray Parker Junior over forward pulling drums and pumping bass;

Echo chamber processed violin opens side 2 in 6/4 mid tempo, soon replaced by RPJ highly compressed solo over a funky groove; another wave of echo violin over hard hitting jazzy Ndugu and inspired Rhodes playing, finishes the track. EotF is a multitracked SciFi violectra solo piece by JLP. Dan Sawyer creates a lush guitar chords background for another swelling violin solo and PR shows she has a voice of her own on the moog that will send shivers down your spine. DS and RPJ open with a double guitar attack the uptempo MO inspired Fight For Life,where the later has a very inspired heavily processed guitar solo; the piece goes into 200Km/h mode on the 2nd part, JLP reminding us why McLaughlin hired him for his MO last 2 albums: ´nuff said- if I had to keep only one JLP album, it would be this.

Report this review (#288344)
Posted Saturday, June 26, 2010 | Review Permalink

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