FAME Review: Mads Tolling Quartet - Celebrating Jean-Luc Ponty: Live at Yoshi's
Mads Tolling Quartet - Celebrating Jean-Luc Ponty: Live at Yoshi's

Celebrating Jean-Luc Ponty:
Live at Yoshi's

Mads Tolling Quartet

Madsman Records - MT02

Available from CD Universe.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

It's probably something along the lines of a cosmic coincidence that I found myself waxing nostalgic for the estimable Jean Luc Ponty's music just as his daughter's disc (here) arrived in my mailbox followed by this one, a tribute—finally!—to the great violinist by the Turtle Island String Quartet's own Strativarian devotee, Mads Tolling (and he'll soon be exeunting the famed foursome, just so's ya knows). After lending an ear to this disc, you'll be hard put to agree with me that no better tribute forum could be found for the highly regarded Jean Luc, who found himself cherished by fans of intelligent music while resident in ensembles with Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and others.

The kick-off, Mahavishnu's Lila's Dance, will warm the cockles of the hearts of every progrock aficionado on the planet, and the follower, Stanley Clarke's tribute to Coltrane, Song for John, has Tolling sounding like Allan Holdsworth grabbing a violin (which, by the way, Allan indeed used to play early on—at one time even with Gordon Beck) in a stunningly complex rendering. Then catch the slow contrast by guitarist Mike Abraham in the middle eight……niiiiice! Elsewhere, you'll find sterling favorites like King Kong and Enigmatic Ocean along with material from Ponty's long and gratifying solo era as well as Tolling's own dedicatory number, the wryly titled Pontyfication, George Ban-Weiss laying out a killer bass solo of unusual voicing along with everything else (and even Abraham hits Holdsworthian levels here). Drummer Eric Garland maintains a DeJohnette-ish presence throughout but one that's on Jack's more restrained side, which is still pretty damned snappy.

Not only is Tolling immaculately clean throughout the CD, but he also gives a lot of room for his accompanists to dub in their own voices. This is a tight foursome with a lot of surprises, and Celebrating is a disc long hoped for. Mads has commented that he feels a fusion revival is overdue, and I couldn't agree more. It has, in fact, always been bubbling under, with old mainstays and ongoing wrinkles (Vertu, Kmang Kmang, etc.) arising to keep the tradition alive, but only just barely. This disc should help, but don't expect any explosive activity from the musically madding throng any time soon, as there just aren't enough dedicated musicians, despite a lot of very good modern music, who can produce this kind of sound…which makes an event like this one all the more valuable.

Track List:

  • Lila's Dance (John McLaughlin)
  • Song to John (Stanley Clarke)
  • Old Country (Nat Adderly)
  • Struggle of the Turtle (Jean-Luc Ponty)
  • King Kong (Frank Zappa)
  • Enigmatic Ocean (Jean-Luc Ponty)
  • Bowing Bowing (Jean-Luc Ponty)
  • Struggle of the Turtle (outro) (Jean-Luc Ponty)
  • Last Memories of Her (Jean-Luc Ponty)
  • New Country (Jean-Luc Ponty)
  • Beatrice (Sam Rivers)
  • Intro To Pontyfication (Mads Tolling)
  • Pontyfication (Mads Tolling)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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