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Ponty's Career Highlights Include Recording With Elton And Being Asked to Join Rocket Records

Written by Chief Editor.

A violinist who appeared on Elton's Honky Chateau album is thanking fans who contributed to his Kickstarter campaign. This has enabled him to launch a new project with Jon Anderson, cofounder and lead vocalist of Yes, called the Anderson Ponty Band. They have been rehearsing, recording, filming and performing, and plan to release a CD and DVD this year. They will also embark on a world tour in 2015.
 
Longtime Eltonjohnworld.com readers may recall our interview a few years ago with Jean-Luc Ponty, who had mentioned wanting to work with ''great musicians for the stimulation.'' Ponty also shared his thoughts about his earlier collaboration with another major name, and a portion of the interview appears below.
 
EJW: How did you come to be involved with Honky Chateau and what were the recording sessions like?
 
JLP: Well . . . we have to backtrack a bit to understand how Elton could be interested in my playing. During my studies at the Paris Conservatory, I discovered jazz in local clubs, and soon after graduating I abandoned classical music, plugged my violin into an amplifier to get a more powerful sound and started playing jazz in clubs all over Europe. An American record producer from Los Angeles discovered my experiments with the electric violin and signed me to his record label in 1969. While I was recording for him in California, he introduced me to Frank Zappa and asked Zappa to record my next solo album called King Kong.
 
Elton discovered my playing in King Kong and when he was recording Honky Chateau near Paris, he heard that I was in France and asked me to play on a couple of songs. As strange as this may appear today, Elton John had heard of me, but I had never heard of him! He was already a star in America but not famous in France yet and I was not paying much attention to pop music in  those days. So I called one of my best friends, a French musician who was listening to all types of music and asked him if he had heard of Elton John. He said 'yes' and told me that he was a very talented singer doing real top class pop music. Based on my friend's comment whose taste I trusted 100%, I accepted Elton's invitation.
 
I had a great feeling as soon as I walked in the recording studio. Elton was very humble and he, his musicians, producer Gus Dudgeon, and Ken Scott, the engineer, were all very friendly. They were recording one song per day, and Elton would first sing the melody and play his piano part for us, then Davey, Dee, Nigel and myself would start improvising our parts, with Gus approving or making suggestions. I was immediately impressed with Elton's singing, his phrasing, his rhythm feel and intonation. I was also impressed by Ken's engineering and the technological quality of the recording. Two years later, I had joined the Mahavishnu Orchestra in New York and worked again with Ken.
 
EJW: Have you been in touch with Elton at all since?
 
JLP: I saw him again a few months after the recording. Elton was vacationing in Malibu, California, with his manager. Bernie Taupin and his wife were also there. I was recording an album in Los Angeles and went to visit them a few times with my wife. Then Elton and his manager had their own record label and offered to sign me, but I was already signed to another label and it was not possible.
 
EJW: Who are some of the artists you admire, past and present, and have they impacted you in any way?
 
JLP: I grew up with classical music, which has had a strong impact on my composing. Then jazz innovators like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and others have greatly influenced my playing. I have learned to transfer on violin what these horn players were doing with their instruments. Then I became part of the jazz-rock movement in the late 60s, early 60s, which by assimilating influences from classical, jazz and rock gave me the opportunity to incorporate all my musical experiences into one new music. And since reaching musical maturity I don't need to listen to others for inspiration, I keep listening for pleasure, all styles of music including Stevie Wonder, Sting, Elton, African music, flamenco, and also to what is being created by younger generations.