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  July 2007

Jean Luc Ponty interview page 2

Smitty:  Yeah, so it’s an album that was built on the live experience.

JLP:  Somehow, yes. The music, most of it, I mean, 98% of the music is really totally new and conceived specifically for this new album, but then I had a couple of ideas that were sitting there for many, many years, never exploited, never developed, but that did find their place on this album, and thanks to the travels, like, you know, I have kind of a short piece which is like a musical painting to me, it’s just with electronic sounds and so it’s just sound colors for me that reproduce in my mind the impression I had when I was visiting the desert in Northern Chile, the Acatama, actually called the Atacama Desert, in Chile.

Smitty:  Yes.

JLP:  And so the travels definitely influenced the outcome of the album.

Smitty:  So what was the desert like?

JLP:  It’s incredible.  It’s moonlight.  In fact, NASA is going there to experiment with some robots before sending them to Mars.  It never rains.  Maybe it rains three days a year.  So it’s the most arid desert in the world.

Smitty: Amazing.

JLP:  But there are huge canyons, incredible, gigantic, and so it is very spectacular.

Smitty:  Sounds very inspirational.  Well, I want to thank you for that cool little intro at the beginning of the project.  (Laughs.)

JLP:  Oh, okay.  That’s a little closer to home, at least one of my homes, since I spend some part of the year in Paris, so I just walked in the streets and recorded the ambience there, right?  (Both laugh.)

Smitty:  Kinda made me feel like I was in Paris, you know?

JLP:  Okay. That’s the point. But the idea was really because we recorded a piece by bebop pianist Bud Powell.

Smitty:  Yeah.

JLP:  My young keyboardist, William Lecomte, is a big fan of Bud Powell but he’s too young to have ever met or seen Bud Powell play live, however, I did.  I’m old enough (both laugh) to have met Bud, although I was very young at the time, but I jammed with him and so Bud Powell lived in Paris in the sixties for quite a long time and while he was here he wrote this piece called “Parisian Thoroughfare,” and William one day brought me this piece that he had rearranged in a modern way with some modern rhythm in the back.

Smitty:  Yeah.

JLP:  And I really liked it because you can play bebop on top of it, so we had several reasons to do this piece.  In fact, it has been recorded many times by Clifford Brown in the past, Max Roach, and sometimes they inserted some Paris noises, you know, or they would play a little French tune, so I thought I would do something a little different but still, you know, put some Paris ambience in there.

Smitty:  Yeah.  That was a pretty cool thing to do.  I loved that.

JLP:  Thanks.

Smitty:  So, now, I’m thinking about this great experience on the road and having this inspirational experience in the Atacama Desert.

JLP:  Yes.

Smitty:  But I thought more, too, about what a cool thing it must be to travel internationally doing gigs.  I mean, it sounds like a simple thing, but that’s gotta be a wonderful experience and it’s gotta be inspirational, not just the desert, but everywhere you go you meet different people, different languages, different styles, different customs…that’s gotta be a beautiful thing to see so many people around the world and get to play music for them.

JLP:  Absolutely, but it started to happen only about 10 years ago because I must say that before that, most of my career was spent in North America and I still do tour in America and I need to keep touring in the States to feel good too.  It’s really part of my roots, I’ve been there so long, and it has brought me so much.  But in the past 10 years there was a lot more demand.  I mean, before I would go to South America and Europe, but that was it, but since the Iron Curtain fell down, all the ex-communist countries started to open and they were crazy about seeing musicians that sometimes they admired and could never see live. So it was a great experience to go to Poland, to Moscow, to places like that, even India is fairly new for us, you know, Western musicians, to start touring in India, and realize that all these years there were people who were listening to your records and know the music.  It’s quite a trip.  It’s a great feeling.


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