164

Jimmy Ponder: Steel City Soul

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Jimmy Ponder: Steel City Soul Producer Lance Goler calls Jimmy Ponder one of "a handful of players who can hold a torch to Wes." Some would laugh, but there are a number of parallels. Jimmy plays with his thumb, and, like Wes, spent a lot of time playing guitar- organ "bar music". While Blue Note and Prestige recorded this music extensively in the 'Sixties, in the 'Eighties it was Muse; few others were doing it. This "best of" covers six Ponder albums for Muse, made between 1987 and 1994. We get plaintive solos and big names, but mostly we get the sound of smoky back-rooms.

We know what we're getting from the first track, "Johnny's Place". Title and tune sound like a bar; it's a gritty blues, heavy on attitude. Ponder's first solo is single-string blues playing, his second full of Montgomery chords. We then get a version of "All Blues" where the theme is never fully stated. While not heard, the theme is sure felt, first by Ponder with Wes chords, then in a brief piano bit by Benny Green, lastly by Houston Person and his authoritative horn. It's five minutes long and seems gone in a moment.

Next up is "You Are Too Beautiful" and here Ponder's tone gets liquid, sounding like Kenny Burrell in spots. It's nice to hear a change in mood mirrored by a change in tone. With "Solitude" comes our first track with organ (the redoubtable Big John Patton) and a flute, hardly a staple of bar music. It trills delightfully among Patton's chords, delicacy mixing with strength really well. Ponder's solo jangles nicely, single strings melting into chords. Flutist Bill Saxton picks up his his tenor, and we're back in the bar. The guitar gets tough, and the organ grinds mighty chords. This track, "Mean Streets - No Bridges" sounds for all the world like late "Sixties funk-jazz. For fans of the organ sound, this is high praise indeed.

Ponder's compositions are simple and effective. He gets tender and intricate on "Tribute to a Rose", an unaccompanied solo. "Uncle Steve" is a powerful blues with a memorable intro; Patton goes crazy on his solo. This and "Mean Streets - No Bridges" are the best tunes here. For the type of music Ponder plays, these tunes work very well, and you can play them all night. I'm sure he does.

The disc ends with several standards played very fast. "My Romance" sounds VERY much like Wes, not just in the tone but in the way Ponder's solo is constructed (akin to "Full House".) "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise" is far from soft, and sounds like night time. Saxton's tenor returns for "I Only Have Eyes For You", which is swing on the theme, pure barroom on the solos. Saxton scores big, and Patton goes through the roof. It's a spirited ending to an attractive album.

The notes mention that Jimmy Ponder is eager to come to New York, to promote his new album and to return to the club scene. This would be welcome; guitarists this fiery are hard to come by.


Personnel:

Collective Jimmy Ponder: guitar; Geary Moore: rhythm guitar; Houston Person, James Anderson; tenor sax; Bill Saxton: flute, tenor sax; Mark Soskin, Benny Green: piano; Big John Patton, Lonnie Smith: organ; Peter Washington: bass; Roger Humphrey, Victor Jones, Greg Bandy, Winard Harper, Eddie Gladden: drums; Sammy Figueroa, Lawrence Killian: percussion.

Title: Steel City Soul | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: 32 Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read The Romeo and Juliet Project CD/LP/Track Review The Romeo and Juliet Project
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Crystal Machine CD/LP/Track Review Crystal Machine
by Glenn Astarita
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Alma Matters" CD/LP/Track Review Alma Matters
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 10, 2017
Read "I'm Gonna Tell You Somethin' That I Know" CD/LP/Track Review I'm Gonna Tell You Somethin' That I Know
by James Nadal
Published: August 2, 2016
Read "Il Dodicesimo Nano" CD/LP/Track Review Il Dodicesimo Nano
by Jim Olin
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Vol. 02" CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 02
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "High Noon" CD/LP/Track Review High Noon
by Anthony Shaw
Published: September 10, 2016
Read "Slag" CD/LP/Track Review Slag
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.