The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Jean Luc Ponty & Chateau de Nages

It’s Friday and time to let it out a bit. Jean Luc Ponty in an innovator and a master of the jazz/rock violin. I first heard him play in 1974 in Indianapolis when he was the violinist for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Ponty was born in a family of classical musicians on September 29, 1942 in Avranches, France. His father taught violin, his mother taught piano. At sixteen, he entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, graduating two years later with the institution's highest award, Premier Prix. He was immediately hired by a major French symphony orchestra where he played for three years. He played with the orchestra by day, but spent his nights playing jazz in the Paris nightclubs.

In 1967, John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet invited Ponty to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival where he was a smashing success and his performance led to a U.S. recording contract. His mounting critical praise and popularity across Europe attracted the attention of numerous recording artists. In 1969, Frank Zappa composed the music for Jean-Luc's solo album King Kong (Blue Note). In 1972, Elton John invited Ponty to contribute to his Honky Chateau album. A year later, Ponty emigrated with his wife and two young daughters to America, made his home in Los Angeles, and joined Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, touring across the United States. Later, he joined with John McLaughlin playing on several Mahavishnu Orchestra albums and touring with the group.  He continues to tour and record innovative jazz music and one thing I love about his groups is that the members are always virtuosos on their respective instruments. Hope you enjoy his music.

With a French violinist, I suggest a French Rhone. Chateau de Nages, a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, is a dense purple color The nose is full of raspberries with hints of chocolate. On the palate, blackberry and black cherry dominate. This is a powerhouse wine and perfect for a similarly powerful musician. Enjoy!


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