Jean-Luc Ponty To Release Live At Semper Opera


Jean-Luc Ponty, the pioneering jazz violinist, will release a new in-concert CD, Live At Semper Opera, on July 23, on his own JLP Productions Inc. label, distributed through Navarre Corp. Live At Semper Opera is the third live album he’s released as a solo artist in a career that’s spanned nearly 40 years. Ponty will also perform in select cities as part of a U.S. summer tour.

Live At Semper Opera was recorded at Semper Opera in Dresden, Germany, on May 25, 2001. Ponty’s longtime band includes keyboardist William Lecomte, percussionist Moustapha Cisse, electric bass guitarist Guy Nsangue Akwa and drummer Thierry Arpino.

The track listing for Live At Semper Opera includes many of Ponty’s most popular compositions: “Imaginary Voyage - Infinite Pursuit,” “Jig,” “Forever Together,” “No Absolute Time,” “Mirage,” “Enigmatic Ocean (Part I & II),” “Band Introduction,” “Mouna Bowa” and “Caracas.” No tracks are included from Ponty’s 2001 album, Life Enigma (also on his own JLP Productions Inc. label) because the Semper Opera show was recorded before its release.

“This was the first time I had played at Semper Opera, and it’s an absolutely beautiful theater. It really inspired us, and it made for a great performance. I was actually invited to play there as part of a special series, and they only have two or three jazz concerts per year,” Ponty explains.

The Semper Opera performance wasn’t specifically selected to be recorded for a live CD. The German radio company MDR (which is similar to Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio in the United States) arranged to record the show for a later broadcast. As a courtesy, they sent Ponty a copy of the recording. He was so impressed by the combination of the vibrant sound quality and the band’s stellar performance that he decided to use it for his own live CD release.

“It was not our usual crowd. The first few rows were filled with Semper Opera subscription people who are fans of classical music; they weren’t necessarily fans of jazz or fans of mine. My hard-core fans, who were more vocal, were in the back,” Ponty says. “We used less amplification than usual. It became more of an acoustic performance. But it worked. It was not a crowd we were used to, but we saw no one leave the room. Everybody was standing up at the end of the show. It was a magical evening.”

Live At Semper Opera features virtually the entire concert. In order to fit as much music as possible onto one CD, Ponty had to leave out a couple of songs. But the majesty of the performance is intact. Sonically speaking, Ponty was so happy with the quality that very little remixing was done on MDR’s digital, 32-track recording of the show. This is a rarity considering that most live albums use overdubs to correct errors. Not only that, but live albums—even Ponty’s first live album in 1979—are typically recorded at multiple shows. Not Live At Semper Opera. Ponty preferred the consistency of a live recording made at one show in one venue.

“You lose a bit of transparency when you tamper with a live recording,” says Ponty. “It’s not as fresh. Not as clear.”

According to Ponty, Live At Semper Opera is the “most acoustic of my three live albums.” He says the bands he had for 1979’s Jean-Luc Ponty: Live and 1997’s Live At Chene Park were more electric-oriented. With this new band, and the rhythmic influence of African musicians Akwa and Cisse, the classic songs on ‘Live at Semper Opera’ have evolved from their original form and have taken on a whole new life.

Ponty and his band are scheduled to headline a limited number of U.S. concerts in summer 2002, including the V98.7 Jazz Festival at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater in Sterling Heights, Mich., on Aug. 1. After the U.S. summer dates, Ponty will return to Europe for shows there, but he will come back for more U.S. concerts in the fall. The summer U.S. t

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July 2022
Sean Jones
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