Jean-Luc Ponty (born 29 September 1942) is a French jazz violinist and composer.
Ponty was born into a family of classical musicians on 29 September 1942 in Avranches, France. His father taught violin, his mother taught piano. At sixteen, he was admitted to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, graduating two years later with the institution’s highest honor, Premier Prix (first prize). In turn, he was immediately hired by one of the major symphony orchestras, Concerts Lamoureux, in which he played for three years.
At first, the violin proved to be a handicap; few at the time viewed the instrument as having a legitimate place in the modern jazz vocabulary. With a powerful sound that eschewed vibrato, Ponty distinguished himself with be-bop-era phrasings and a punchy style influenced more by horn players than by anything previously tried on the violin; no one had yet heard anything quite like Ponty’s playing. Critics said then that he was the first jazz violinist to be as exciting as a saxophonist. Ponty’s notoriety grew by leaps and in 1964 at age 22 he released his debut solo albumfor Philips, Jazz Long Playing. Then a 1966 live album called Violin Summit united Ponty playing live in Basel, Switzerland on stage with such notable string players as Svend Asmussen, Stéphane Grappelli and Stuff Smith.
John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet invited Ponty to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1967, which led to a U.S. recording contract with the World Pacific label and the albums Electric Connection with the Gerald Wilson Big Band and Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio. That year also brought Sunday Walk, the first collaboration between Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Ponty. Through the late 60s and early 70s and throughout jazz-loving Europe, Ponty achieved mounting critical praise and ongoing popularity.