Happy 20th: Jean-Luc Ponty, Live at Chene Park
20 years ago today, a Frenchman performed a concert in Detroit, Michigan which he subsequently released as a live album and, in doing so, closed out his career with Atlantic Records.
Jazz-fusion artist Jean-Luc Ponty made his debut on Atlantic Records in 1975 with Upon the Wings of Music, an album which remains one of the most acclaimed entries in his discography. After 12 albums for the label, he jumped over to Columbia Records for a few years, but in 1993 he returned to the Atlantic family with No Absolute Time. It was, alas, a far shorter stay this time than it had been before: after the one studio album, Ponty released Live at Chene Park, and subsequently embarked on a new career as an independent artist. Why the jump? In conversation with the website Innerviews.org, Ponty explained that his reasons were tied to the change in personnel at the label over the years.
“The building remained the same, but inside a lot of people came through and disappeared,” said Ponty. “When I re-signed to Atlantic, I didn’t even know Ahmet Ertegun was still involved. It turns out he was. I signed with Nesuhi Ertegun initially in the ‘70s. Both he and his brother Ahmet were great supporters. Ahmet was still strongly supporting me to the last minute, but he sold the company, so he [wasn’t] the only one involved there. None of the people I dealt with when I signed in the ‘70s [were] still there. By the late ‘90s, I had to deal with people at the label who didn’t really understand what I was doing musically, so we all agreed that there was no need to renew the contract.”
Still, at least Ponty left the label a success: Live at Chene Park hit #15 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. If you can leave a label when you’re still delivering top-20 albums, then it’s fair to say that you’ve gone out on top.