May 31, 2007


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Jean-Luc Ponty, The Acatama Experience
Koch Records, 2007

From Zappa to Al DiMeola to Herbie Hancock and back again, acoustic/electric violinist Jean-Luc Ponty’s past accomplices are legion and legend. Coming on the heels of his TRIO! fusion-supergroup project with Bela Fleck and Stanley Clarke, Ponty’s first Ponty-centric album in several years is studiously relaxed. “Parisian Throroughfare” is everything you’d want out of chill-down fusion, as it sports an easy but busy hook, Ponty’s tightly knitted blurs of 64th notes serving to remind old-timer Kansas fans who was whose daddy. The electric violin passages melt the boundaries of stringed instruments, emulating virtuoso synthesizer lines with laser-guidance, and when fusion-guitar monument Allan Holdsworth pops in to add his two cents to “Point of No Return” you may as well be listening to Mozart futzing around with Pro Tools. Ponty’s touring band is steady and well-mannered, rarely if ever lent much running room, but all hands are undoubtedly fine with simply being there for the ride. A few R&B-hop moments do surface as advertised, but don’t take the accompanying hype too seriously. AEric W. Saeger