Jordan Ponzi: The First Journey

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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The First Journey from bassist, educator Jordan Ponzi is a classic trio side which delivers a kaleidoscope of textures, tempos, and superb playing. The 7-track recording packs plenty of punch and variety within—and it's a winner.

Jordan Ponzi's eclectic compositions offer fine launch pads for superior improv and great ensemble interaction. "Sign Unseen" is a terrific opening cut that has McNeill's keys calling out over Ponzi's arco bass and ultimately takes off at white-hot speed. "Odd Shuffle" is a multi- metered gem that M.C. Escher would love—it alternates 4/4 time with a 5/4 measure, all tickled with funky contrapuntal lines. It's a highlight and an example of Ponzi's outstanding composition and arranging. Both of those activities are superb on all tracks.

Pianist Michael McNeill shines on the noir-ish and very dramatic "Walking Glass," with Ponzi offering a superb, vocalized bass solo. He carries that same approach on his outstanding solos across the date. McNeill explores atonality and spontaneity on the very spooky "Black Cauldron," before it breaks loose, bolstered by Arbinett Bernahu's powerful drums. "Candela" is a tasty Latin-flavored take that features both Ponzi's and McNeill's fine rides and Berhanu's drive. "Down Beaten," introduced by Ponzi's pulsating bass riff, propels all into a stop-and-go foray over McNeill's comps and Berhanu's rim taps—all highlighted by intense individual solos.

Leader Ponzi is a superb bassist with resonant sound, ace technical chops, and a fine, lyrical solo approach. McNeill's playing indicates he has devoured Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner, and Chick Corea. He has a "bond" to the keyboard, superior technique, and truly gets the most out of his 88. Drummer Bernahu lends fine support throughout and is a most able negotiator with his cohorts.

Ponzi and the team are highly energized throughout this entire session. The exchanges and dialog among this crew are excellent. There are neat subtleties among the players which warrant repeated listening and enjoyable dissection.

The First Journey gets this crew off on a fine expedition. Tag along.

Track Listing

Sign Unseen, Odd Shuffle, Walking Glass, Black Cauldron, Candela, The One Inspired, Down Beaten.


Jordan Ponzi: bass, acoustic; Michael McNeill: piano; Abinnet Berhanu: drums.

Album information

Title: The First Journey | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced



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