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Jean-Luc Ponty - Imaginary Voyage CD (album) cover

IMAGINARY VOYAGE

Jean-Luc Ponty

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.64 | 109 ratings

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Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars Fusion: a union by or as if by melting as a merging of diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole.

It may seem strange to start a review with a definition of a dictionary of the word fusion, but I believe hat in the case of Imaginary Voyage it's essential, because this single album describes perfectly what the word fusion should really mean.

Ponty takes different influences (As we'll see later) and blends them with his own unique personality, not to obtain a hybrid but to create a new and different sound without loosing his essence and distinctive touch, but yet with obvious references to the specific genres from which he takes the influences.

In other words, less talented songwriters mix sounds and genres randomly, a great composer like Ponty blends everything with delicacy to create a different conception of music with a very defined personality.

But lets go back to the album, Ponty changes the "Aurora" lineup, Patrice Rushen is replaced by Alan Zavod on keyboards and Norman Ferrington by Marc Craney on drums and percussion. In the case of the drums I feel no dramatic difference but I like much more Rushen's more classical approach to piano than Zavod's eclectic style, even when the second one is more versatile, but the quality doesn't change because all the members are very talented including Stuermer and Fowler.

The first track "New Country" is an excellent fusion of Jazz and USA folk/Country, the interesting thing is that Jean-Luc creates the country sound with his violin and the rest of the band keeps playing in a jazzy style, specially the powerful rhythm section. At one point of the song Ponty uses the piccicato technique (playing the violin with the fingers instead of the bow) creating the illusion of a banjo sound, a perfect lesson of how two styles should be blended.

In the second song "The Gardens of Babylon" the band members change the role, violin, piano bass and keyboards play a clear jazz oriented song while Darryl Stuermer adds a wonderful touch of Flamenco or classical guitar, again a new lesson of how things must be done when you want to blend two absolutely different genres without creating a mess, wonderful track.

"Wandering on the Milky Way" is a violin solo where Jean-Luc allows himself to play with his favorite instrument using all the electronic devices in which he's pioneer in order to create a spacey atmosphere, not my favorite track, but after the first two masterpieces the man is allowed to have some fun.

"Once Upon a Dream" is a classic Jazz/Fusion song where the violin and piano take the leading role while Marc Craney keeps a perfect timing with his drums, probably with a strongest bass would have sounded much better, again not in the level of the first two tracks but very good.

Now it's time for some aggressive playing "Tarantula" is the perfect blending of Jazz with Rock, Ponty and Stuermer work perfectly together the rock oriented section while Fowler's strong bass and that human metronome named Marc Craney keep the Jazzy atmosphere alive, but Zavod deserves a special mention because he keeps changing from one genre to the other supporting each duet when necessary. Another masterpiece.

Maybe some purist Progheads won't be really satisfied because they would like something more Prog' oriented, well the epic "Imaginary Voyage" gives them more than anybody could expect on a Fusion album. This epic is divided in 4 parts:

Part I is clearly oriented towards Symphonic Prog with some references to ELP, but again Ponty is too proud and talented to copy any band, he just plays with those influences with his own unique sound, even when this part sounds 100% Symphonic, there's still alive some Jazzy sound, but very subtle to be obvious.

Part II is a return to Jazz and Ponty's brilliant violin sections while the band perfectly supports him, specially Zavod who does an spectacular work with the keyboards.

Part III starts with a spacey atmosphere somehow reminiscent to Pink Floyd, but again the development leads the song towards Jazz/Fusion a territory where Jean-Luc Ponty is more comfortable even when some Psychedelic touches (Similar to Santana) are evident, without doubt the richest and my favorite part of this excellent epic.

If there was any genre not worked by Ponty in this album it's Blues, but for the pleasure of those who like me love it, Jean Luc closes this album with "Imaginary Voyage" Pt IV mostly oriented toward Blues, with again an excellent work by Daryl Stuermer, this section of the epic also recapitulates atmospheres from the other three parts, a great closer.

A few hours ago I would have rated "Imaginary Voyage" under "Aurora", but when writing this review gave a new listen to the album and now I can't decide which is better.

Probably according to Jazz/Fusion standards "Aurora" is more consistent, but for most Progheads "Imaginary Voyage" is so rich in styles, influences and sounds that they would like it more. In my case it's a very hard choice, both are essential.

So I have no other option than rate it with another 5 solid stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 5/5 |

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