Jean-Luc Ponty: The Gardens of Babylon


The Gardens of Babylon


Jean-Luc Ponty (violin)


Imaginary Voyage (Atlantic 19136)

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Jean-Luc Ponty (violin),

Allan Zavod (keyboards), Darryl Stuermer (guitar), Tom Fowler (bass), Mark Craney (drums)


Composed by Jean-Luc Ponty


Recorded: Burbank, CA, July-August 1976


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

The two most important fusion violinists were Jean-Luc Ponty and Jerry Goodman. Each had a classical background but branched out. Ponty came more from the jazz tradition and was European. Goodman entered the genre from the folk-rock angle and was a pure mid-western hippy. Goodman's sound was purposely rough around the edges. This gave his music a strong rock component that was perfect for the original Mahavishnu Orchestra. As Goodman's de facto replacement in the band's second incarnation, Ponty brought something different. His sound was purer, more European and more symphonic. That was perfect for the expanded Mahavishnu, which was now almost a real orchestra in size. Goodman's personal confidence issues have hampered his career for 30 years, but Ponty's stint in the MO led to a successful run that has kept him in the spotlight ever since.

"The Gardens of Babylon" was a typical Jean-Luc Ponty commercial vehicle of the day. Its cyclical melody would instantly find its way to the pleasure part of your brain and force you to buy the record. His guitarist Daryl Steurmer plays a pretty acoustic interlude before Ponty's long electric sonorous solo. There is much to be admired both in the tune's melody and the band's sound. This was a cleaner and more organized fusion. But therein lies the rub. This tune is very good, yet under its surface lurked the basic raw materials that would lead to the WAVE and Quiet Storm radio formats, which in turn doomed fusion as an escape from the mundane world. The seeds of Smooth Jazz (excuse me while I snap a violin string) were first planted in music like this.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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