I know very little about the violin, but I like Ponty a lot. How does he compare with guys like Jascha Heifetz? As good as Jean-Luc is, I have a feeling that Heifetz could have played his music as a warm-up, and with no effort.
Are they in different leagues?
I liked Ponty's stuff in the 1960's on the World Pacific Jazz label if I'm not mistaken. I don't know whether I'd still like it today. (I mean, I liked Peter Stampfel's playing in the 60s too!) The fusion stuff Ponty did later was unlistenable. I doubt that his technical skill was/is even in the same league with Heifetz. Also I think I read somewhere that Heifetz didn't need to warm up. He just went at it, such was his talent.
Completely different styles and not worth comparing at all. Jazz violinists don't need most of the techniques that classical violinists use therefore rarely (if ever) train to be able to do many of those techniques; and classical violinists rarely develop the skills to learn how to improvise in a coherent way.
Thanks for the explanation, Denis. I appreciate it.
Many, many violinists are trained in classical music; vanishingly few can play like Heifetz.
Many great jazz violinists start with classical because that is usually how violin is generally taught around the world. That's the case for Stéphane Grappelli as well. By the time , they discover jazz and focus on it though, they have to sacrifice a huge chunk of their classical education compared to their colleagues.
Wow - that was incredible. I never heard of that guitarist, but I just saw him in a video with John McLaughlin. Very impressive!
As a musician, I could argue that Jean-luc is better. Not only are his technical skills quite good, his creativity in performing jazz/jazz fusion is pioneering. He was the first (at least commercially successful) to integrate an electric violin with all its effects, and jazz/jazz fusion. Which has a significant improvise/compose aspect. What did Heifetz compose?
Arnie, come on. Heifetz created many interpretations of modern pieces, Gershwin works for example. He was most certainly a complete musician.
Jean-Luc Ponty is a conservatory-trained classical violinist who was considered a hot prospect in his day (late 1950s). His early work in jazz was pioneering in the sense that he demonstrated a much wider context for the violin than Grappelli ever envisioned. Apart from his injection of the violin into jazz, his influence on jazz as a musical genre is overshadowed by the contributions of others of that era, in my opinion.
Paul, that's terrific response. Thanks.
Unlistenable for me - specifically the "Cosmic Messenger" album which I have on vinyl and some more recent stuff I looked at on Youtube. It is so processed it doesn't even sound like a violin. It may as well have been played on a keyboard synth. What am I missing? Now for jazz violin, I'd recommend Stephen Grappelli, Joe Venuti, even Eddie South, Sugarcane Harris, Stuff Smith.
Could Heifetz improvise as well as Ponty?
John I was trying to be generous toward Ponty's 70s opus. I thought those albums were cool when I was in junior high school, but then I also listened to BTO and the Doobie Brothers back then! Like you, I can no longer tolerate "Cosmic Messenger."
The expression "classically trained" is very misleading if you consider that unless you are self-taught or are learning from a community that had never been in touch with the classical world, you 're quite likely to be "classically trained" because for the longest time, that was the only kind of violin education there was. Certain pedagogical principles even cross over to other styles.
For those who don't like the electric violin of the earlier JLP recordings, try the acoustic recording, "The Rite of Strings" with Stanley Clarke,bass and Al Di Meola, guitar.
Denis, I appreciate your comments, especially having been corrected on Lockwood's nationality. He's a great violinist and I'm happy to learn more about him. I would note, however, that the phrase "classically trained" has, thus far, only appeared in your post on this thread. My post used the phrase "conservatory trained" to describe Ponty since he did attend and graduate from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, according to his Wikipedia entry. Not knowing anything about French music schools, I don't know whether that's considered anywhere close to a US conservatory degree or whether it's more like prep school level, but his bio also says he played in pro orchestras for a few years.
Conservatory trained is quite close to classically trained, at least until recent years (and then I don't want to go on a rant about jazz education in a conservatory). I am not saying that Ponty or Grappelli have bad technique or anything like that, but by modern classical standards, they are definitely leagues away from their classical counterparts.
So you're not "classically trained" unless you can play like Heifetz!!!
Lyndon, I don't think anyone said that. Once again you're dramatizing. I think the point was that the comparison of even pro orchestral violinists to Heifetz is fruitless. Just because they can't play like Heifetz doesn't mean they can't still play awfully darn well.
Indeed, I would say that Ponty reached an admirable level but because of life choices, he focused on other things that his career demanded. As such, it's not fair to make the comparison to Jascha Heifetz. Vice Versa, it would not be fair to compare Jascha Heifetz' improvisation and jazz skills to Ponty's!!
Le Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris is basically where every world known French musicians; composer or instrumentalist would have had a connection with (Faure was its director at one point). This is historically a classical music world institution, and any one having received a first prize in violin from this conservatory would find a place in any of the world top orchestra. As a matter of fact I read that Ponty played for 3 years for les Concerts Lamoureux: another historical orchestra which has given première of some of the master work from French composeur ( la Mer from Debussy was premiere by the orchestra). So to resume I wouldn't question Ponty classic technical ability.
The original question was "How do they compare?"
The OP said he thought Heifetz could have played Ponty's music as a warm-up, and whether Ponty is "as good." Those kinds of expressions imply to me that the comparison in question is one of technique. And since the point of reference is invariably Heifetz, that means classical technique.
"Of course Heifetz could probably play Ponty's music without breaking a sweat. But first someone would have to write it all down for him."
Correct. Jean luc earns points for creativity/composition. In this regard I would assert he sets a reference standard.
Yes, If someone could write it down, a Heifetz could probably play the correct notes Ponty's music. I think it would be like an opera singer singing Cole Porter. The elasticity, phrasing would be stiff and essence and swing would be missing. Heifetz was the God of his own domain.
IF someone were to write down JLP's lines for Heifetz to play, I have a strong feeling that he wouldn't be able to play it the way it's meant to be played without some proper guidance and reconditioning of interpretation.
Questions like this reveal a common assumption: work until you have consummate technique a la Heifetz and you can play anything. Not only is it untrue, I would go as far as to say that certain types of training preclude certain aspects of music making and close those doors.
"Come on" Mark Bouquet, did you learn something from the others?
I guess you're right Arnie. Ponty is better than Heifetz, and I'll just tuck my tail between my legs and slink away to hide my wounded pride. Thanks for setting me straight!
I think different is a better distinction. This discussion was educational for me as well.
The flip side of all this is that Heifetz would probably have been the first to admit that he could not acclimate easily to jazz. Classical pianists often listen to their jazz counterparts with great admiration. I read somewhere that Rubinstein described Art Tatum's playing with words like "amazing" and "impossible." But not publicly. Tatum had chops, but not Rubinstein-level chops. Lots of people have transcribed Tatum's solo playing (and the solos of Oscar Peterson, etc.) and learned them with surprising stylistic accuracy. I had a piano teacher in high school who did this. I heard him play Oscar along with the recording. My current violin teacher has transcribed Grappelli/Menuhin duets, for his high-schoolers to perform (let's say Mozart-level kids). The fact that Peterson and Tatum and Grappelli were
Ooooo...Oscar is legendary. Reportedly he worked very hard. Would do scales in one hand, chords in the other, then he switched hands. When he was only able to play with one hand, it still sounded like 2.
Arnie another interesting case is the reclusive jazz pianist Dwike Mitchell. Legend has it that he could play most of the Chopin Etudes from memory -- in all 12 keys. One would have to be kind of a savant to do that.
Paul, that is quite nice....