Friday, October 28, 2016

Jean-Luc Ponty & Masahiko Sato - 1970 - Astrorama

Jean-Luc Ponty & Masahiko Sato 

01. Golden Green [13:08]
02. And So On [07:49]
03. Astrorama / Nuggis [24:37]

Jean-Luc Ponty, violin
Masahiko Sato, electric and acoustic piano
Yoshiaki Masuo, guitar
Nils-Henning Ørsted Pedersen , bass
Motohiko Hino, drums

'Golden Green' and 'Astrorama' composed by Jean-Luc Ponty,
'And So On' by Masahiko Sato, 'Nuggis' by Wolfgang Dauner
Produced by Joachim Ernst Berendt
Recorded August 29, 1970 at Toshiba Studios, Tokyo, Japan.

With full respect to French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty for his work as sideman in Mashavishnu Orchestra and partially with Frank Zappa, I have never been a big fan of his solo albums. Ponty's transformation of Gipsy swing to violin shred for middle-class sofa rockers didn't sound attractive,what for sure is a question of taste.

This Ponty early collaborative work attracted me first of all because of Japanese pianist Masahiko Sato,who is stated as co-leader. Sato in late 60s-early 70s was a true free jazz idol on Japanese scene,so I was curious what can he do in a company like this.

Recorded (and released) in 1970, "Astrorama" contains four originals,three -Ponty's and one Sato's. With no doubt it is Ponty's album first of all - his violin fusion shredding absolutely dominates here even if experienced ear can hear some interesting Sato soloing in few places. In accordance with a long lasting Japanese jazz tradition local musicians tried to collaborate with renowned Western jazz stars, such gigs or recordings were tickets of sort to domestic Jazz hall of fame.

Sato, who at the moment of "Astrorama" recording already built up the reputation of most innovative and revolutionary of Japanese "new jazz" pianist,plays electric piano here trying to adapt his very different techniques to Ponty quite conservative jazz fusion's requirements. As a result he sounds more as Corea (or Hancock) on their very early fusion recordings. Rest of the band don't help much as well - drummer Motohiko Hino (brother of renown trumpeter Terumasa Hino) is well known by his heavyweight drumming manners,fitting better to fusion or rock jazz than to more subtle genres. Unknown to me guitarist Yoshiaki Masuo doesn't shine much, and the last quintet member is a European mainstream jazz legend Dane Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen. His presence in band for sure increased the quintet status a lot, but physical and quite conservative groovy acoustic bass lines adds even more eclectics to far not very organic band.

As one can expect from such line-up,resulting music is quite a mixed bag. Ponty feels a true leader and obviously dominates with quite enthusiastic support from electric guitarist and drummer. Sato balances with different success between electric piano fusion passages and more complex,free and partially psychedelic pieces which not always fit well.

Still the year is 1970 and creativity is in the air so in whole "Astrorama" is quite rewarding listening,representing one of deviations of classic fusion on the early stage of the genre.



  2. Man, I am so very happy. Thank you!