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Jean-Luc Ponty - Life Enigma CD (album) cover


Jean-Luc Ponty

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars Before I start, I just want to say I'm 22 years old, and was exposed to Jean-Luc Ponty via an old tape my dad made of "Enigmatic Ocean" when I was about 10. I really got into Fusion in high school, and it has since waned, but I still pop JLP, Weather Report, or Return to Forever once in a while.

This is JLP's first album of original material since 1993's No Absolute Time. Now, I'm a bigger fan of JLP's 70s music (up to 1983's Individal Choice), than teh period between 1983 and 1993. However, I had read on his website that he wanted to recapture some of the techniques and sounds that he encompassed in the 70s and combine it with his sounds of the 80s and his use of African percussion in the 90s. And I feel that he held true to his word. True, the album does not sound like it was made in 1977. However, it does not sound like it was made in the 90s either. It's wonderfully crafted, and in this album you can hear everything that he has learned thru theyears in this; even hearkening back to his classical training.

The first three songs on the album I feel are the best. 2001 years ago is a great opener, and encompasses everything. Signals from Planet Earth is one that could have been written 30 years ago, and I think is the best song on the album.. It has a funk/R&B feel at the beginning, just starting off with a simple piano riff. The ending of that song sounds lifted from the realms of 70s fusion, with chord progressions and sequences flying all over the place. The Infinite Human Caravan is a lengthy piece, but it's very good.

The rest of the album is pretty typical Ponty, including the song "Pizzy Cat", which he plays by himself (synth and violin) with NO OVERDUBS.

Not as good as say, Enigmatic Ocean, but it is up there.

Report this review (#68808)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've been listening to JLP for years. I've seen him in person twice in my life. This is one of JLP masterpiece. The melody is humble and at the stratified level. The quality of sound is excellent and the melody and fusion context goes according with JLP past style. Albums like Imaginary Voyage, Enigmatic Ocean and Cosmic Messenger are similar in style as this Cd. He kind of took a detour with Tchokola. But No Absolute time and This CD Life Enigma brought him back to his bread and butter style.
Report this review (#110069)
Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sanitized, unvirtuosic, meandering violin noodlings. Each song rarely distinguishes itself from the others, as they all start and end quietly, with no real climax or intensity in between. I see little fusion here: just a lot of violin above capable, yet unenthusiastic, session playing. For most of the songs, it's almost as if Ponty gave instructions for the players (especially the percussion and keys) to find a groove and continue it without variation for the duration of the song. Of course that's oversimplification, and some tunes (Signals from Planet Earth) deviate from the formula a bit, but there's no doubt that Ponty is the feature.

Unfortunately, Ponty often does not do enough in his leading role to keep the music interesting. The melodies are also not enticing enough to carry the tunes, leaving a pleasant, yet frequently boring, hodgepodge of songs. The title track is the epitome of this situation: a few places where Ponty cuts loose are cool, but the song is repetitive and overlong. At least the final two tracks demonstrate that the other players could contribute: a nice piano solo (Love at First Sight) and a capable bass solo (And Life Goes On).

This seems to me easy-listening, uninspired, adult contemporary Muzak with a slight Latin tinge. Not recommended for proggers. Ponty is light-years away from his early Zappa days.

Report this review (#143599)
Posted Thursday, October 11, 2007 | Review Permalink

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