Jimmy Ponder

Live at the Other End

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Let's face it, solo jazz guitar records -- by most guitar masters anyway -- would become rather ho hum unless of course you are a student of the instrument or a die-hard fanatic. There are exceptions: Jim Hall, Bola Sete, Tal Farlow, as well as others purposely omitted for brevity here. Live at the Other End by Jimmy Ponder is not only engaging for its entire 55 minutes' running time, it's downright dazzling, and not only in technical acumen -- which it certainly is -- but in its pure singing musicality. Given that the Other End -- formerly the legendary Bitter End -- was, in 1982, a pop-oriented room, a solo gig by a jazz guitarist was risky for the club to be sure, but more so for the guitarist. While acid jazz fans dig deep into Ponder's sides with Lou Donaldson and the late Charles Earland, as well as his High Note solo date, Alone, it is this set that best defines the guitarist -- preceding the High Note session by eight years -- and brings into the open his considerable gifts. This is a burner of a show. Whether he's digging into the Cannonball Adderley classic "Work Song," in which he -- sans pick like his man Wes Montgomery -- wrings every ounce of funky blues-shouting feeling, or transforms a ballad standard such as "Stella by Starlight" with killer middle-register runs, angular bass notes, and dazzling scalar runs, or turns "All the Things You Are" into a soulful history lesson in the jazz masters of the past as read through the wily soul-jazz era, or funks the joint out with an eight-minute bass note-heavy "Freedom Jazz Dance" by Eddie Harris, it's all jaw-droppingly awesome. If anything, this set, recorded by the great Mark Hood and mastered impeccably by Yoichi Namekata, is perhaps the defining moment for Ponder as one of jazz's underappreciated greats (it's curious that it took the hip-hop and acid jazz generations to cement his rep), and is one of the finest solo jazz guitar records in the canon, period.

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