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Eminent jazz guitarist Jimmy Ponder returned to his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to record this session with regional, like-minded musicians. Back in the 1970s, Ponder's craft was prominently conveyed during his association with fiery organist Charles Earland and the soul-jazz ensembles led by saxophonist Lou Donaldson among other notables. Subsequently, he's amassed a hefty discography as a leader and a sideman. On this studio date, his modish and reverent combination of soul, jazz, blues and funk, spawns a delightful listening experience from beginning to end.
With a mixture of originals and tunes composed by others, the guitarist's classy articulations generate a radiant and thoroughly entertaining program. Regardless of momentum or pitch, the band pursues finger-snapping grooves. On trumpeter Woody Shaw's minor-classic "Moontrane Ponder steers the way atop a medium-tempo swing motif, fused with a snazzy bop rendering of the sinuous and memorable primary theme. And in other segments of this endeavor, Ponder's airy phrasings and animated single note lines take on vocal attributes amid an abundance of blustery jazz progressions.
The group kicks it into overdrive on Miles Davis/Victor Feldman's "Seven Steps to Heaven, where Ponder's fluent chord voicings are shaded with blues and funk. Consequently, it tempers the flow with a few warm and sensitive ballads, prominently transmitted via the leader's gliding notes and soulful strut during the standard "There Will Never Be Another You. Naturally, Ponder doesn't reinvent the wheel here but raises the ante via his distinct musical persona, largely graced by his enviable technique, clarity of execution and proclamation of good spirits.
Track Listing: Kickin' Da Bobo; Moontrane; Too Late Now; Wild is the Wind; Seven Steps to Heaven; Somebody's Child; Who Will Be the One; Somebody's Child Reprise; There Will Never Be Another You; The Creator Has a Master Plan.
Personnel: Jimmy Ponder: guitar; Howard Alexander: piano (1-6, 8, 10); Sonny Barbato: piano (7); Tony De Paolis: bass (6, 10); Jeff Grubbs: bass (1-5); Dr. Mike Taylor: bass (7); Greg Bandy: drums (1, 2, 4, 5, 10); George Heid: drums (3, 6, 7), percussion (4); Douglas Malone: violao (9).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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