Progressive Rock Legends Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty Join Forces

AndersonPonty Band (L-R: Jean-Luc Ponty and Jon Anderson)EXPAND
AndersonPonty Band (L-R: Jean-Luc Ponty and Jon Anderson)
Cathy Miller

AndersonPonty Band is the musical partnership of two giants of progressive rock: Jon Anderson the former singer for Yes and Jean-Luc Ponty, the legendary violinist who played with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa. The two men met more than thirty years ago and discussed working together for years, but it wasn't until 2014 that those intentions came to fruition. A mutual producer friend brought Anderson's and Ponty's talents together. From there, Anderson sent Ponty a recording of his own vocals layered over the top of some of Ponty's work from the '70s and '80s. Hearing his voice with Ponty's violin was immediately exciting for Anderson because of the synergy between the two sounds.

“Jean-Luc sings with his violin. And [I sing] lyrically,” Anderson explains.

In 2014 a friend of Anderson's offered them the chance to record together and film a performance i front of an audience at Wheeler Opera House in Aspen. The energy of that performance was captured on the 2015 DVD/CD release Better Late Than Never. The set is a celebration of the pair's separate musical legacies, including reworked Yes songs and older Jean-Luc Ponty solo material.

It is that music that Anderson and Ponty bring to the Boulder Theater this Wednesday, May 4. But it seems that the Denver area may be seeing Anderson again before the year is out since he is releasing an album called The Invention of Knowledge in June, a collaboration with Transatlantic guitarist Roine Stolte.

“It's long-form music, very classic Yes that I always pushed the band to do and it drove them crazy,” says Anderson. “But that's what I like doing. Long-form work is part of my DNA.”

In 2015, for his birthday, Anderson's wife Jane took him to Finland for the 150-year anniversary of the birth of composer Jean Sibelius, whose 26-minute long Symphony No. 7 truly struck Anderson deeply and further confirmed his affinity for long-form composition.

“When I listened to it I went through this incredible emotional journey and it was devastating mentally that some guy could write all that down," he says. "It was just one piece of music. It was extraordinary, all the movements worked. There was no place where I felt, 'Well, I'll have a cup of tea.'”

Still incredibly prolific with a seemingly endless supply of creative ideas and concepts to work out at 71, Anderson remains a vital artist. His creative vision has never been limited to music and as a painter he has sought out experiences to expand his comprehension of art and human consciousness his entire adult life. In the '70s, living in France, he was the neighbor of influential painter Marc Chagall, and in the early '90s he was exposed to a method of creating immersive experiences.

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“I worked with the guy that originated virtual reality systems 25 years ago in San Francisco,” says Anderson. “I really thought that was the future so I started writing a whole concept video where you can actually become different animals on the planet like dolphins, eagles and so on to learn totem knowledge. I think totem knowledge is something the human consciousness has got to learn more about. The Native Americans knew all about connection with animal life and the earth mother. We as humans have drifted far from the truth. The truth is coming and we will all be understood, forgiven and realized. The only reason we're on this planet during this lifetime is to experience the divine energy that surrounds us. You can get a bigger car, a bigger TV, more kids, more money in the bank, have an affair — you can do what you want in your life. But the only reason you live is to find the divine within. There are many, many rivers to the same ocean. That's what I've sung about since Close to the Edge. [To reach that place, silence] is one of the best places to go. If you can find that silence in your day, that is the key.”

AndersonPonty Band performs on Wednesday, May 4, at the Boulder Theater, 303-789-9206.

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