“Al Di Meola, Jean-Luc Ponty and Stanley Clarke:
Live at Montreux 1994” is a 103-minute DVD, released by
the Eagle Vision label. It was taped at the Stravinsky
Auditorium, during the 1994 Montreux Festival.
Christened “The Rite of Strings,” this was apparently
either the first time or one of the first times that these
artists had played together in this configuration.
What an interesting display of musicianship! It was easy
to see why each of these players has been referred
to as an “icon” on their respective instruments.
Double bassist Stanley Clarke (1951 – ) and
guitarist Al Di Meola (1954 – ) had joined forces during
the 1970’s in one of the incarnations of the Jazz Fusion
group, “Return to Forever.” Jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty
(1942 – ) had been famous for a long time, and he was
briefly a member of John McLaughlin’s “Mahavishnu
Orchestra,” also during the 1970’s.
This was primarily an acoustic outing, although Ponty
sometimes played an electric instrument with five
strings and occasionally used amplification effects,
particularly during his “Eulogy to Oscar Romero” solo.
Although Clarke and Di Meola both played acoustic
instruments, they were also obviously amplified and
wouldn’t have been heard otherwise. Occasionally,
Di Meola used effects in his playing as well.
The music performed could be called light Jazz Fusion,
with subtle Latin influences and without backup
musicians. Each player had a solo spot during the
middle of the set, which allowed them to showcase
their considerable virtuosity. I’d seen Al Di Meola
perform at Montreux on another DVD, but I was
more impressed with his playing in this configuration.
Stanley Clarke was the most impressive double bassist
I’ve ever seen in a Jazz setting, with ideal amplification
of his instrument. Usually, I have a pet peeve with
Jazz double bassists regarding intonation, but Clarke’s
ability to merge lighting speed with near perfect
intonation blew my mind.
One song had the added bonus of Monty Alexander
(1944 – ) on the electric piano. Once again, Montreux
Festival founder Claude Nobbs hosted an
“intimate-sounding” gig, before a quiet and appreciative
audience. To my ears and eyes, the sound mix was pretty
good and the camera work was fine. Watch this
disc and be amazed.