Legendary drummer Kenny Clarke compared Jean-Luc Ponty to Dizzy Gillespie. Fellow violinist Stuff Smith marveled, “He plays violin like Coltrane plays saxophone.” Born in 1942, the French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty transported jazz violin playing into the world of modern jazz. On Frank Zappa’s urging, Ponty moved to the States in 1970. Over the next years he toured with Zappa, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Chick Corea’s “Return to Forever”.
In the early 1970s Ponty bought himself a sequencer and synthesizer and carried them around while traveling so he could record new ideas. By 1982 Ponty had a well-deserved reputation as a forerunner in jazz-rock and jazz fusion. In a retrospective interview for this re-release of the 1983 album Individual Choice, JLP said:
“What I was recording in that new sequencer gave me the idea to go for a totally different concept, to use these recordings as rhythmic backgrounds, sometimes without drums or percussion. I planned to record a new album in which I would play all the background parts with my synthesizers and add my violin later on in the studio. I also invited a few guests on different tracks, rather than record yet another band album.”
The guests Ponty invited to contribute to the recording were no less than George Duke (keys), Allan Holdsworth (guitar), Rayford Griffin (drums) and Randy Jackson (bass). Fans of prior albums like Cosmic Messenger and Upon The Wings Of Music may have recognized the music, but it also demonstrated Ponty’s developing style as a composer. At this point in his career, he was as curious about new sounds, and how they shape harmony and melody, as he was to continue to compose in more familiar ways. New Age philosophy was mainstreaming at this time, and the album’s hypnotic moods resonated with new age listeners as well as fusion fans. It helped pioneer techno, and said musically what JLP has been saying before, but more succinctly and freshly.