Band releases album, starts tour at Keswick Theatre
STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
Jon Anderson is, of course, the legendary voice of Yes, and he has also performed with other artists including Vangelis, Kitaro and Milton Nascimento. Jean-Luc Ponty has established himself as one of the world’s premier rock/jazz violinists, having worked with Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra and many others as well as with “His Band.”
Certainly the two renowned artists knew of each other. Yes had done a show with Mahavishnu in the late ‘70s and the two had crossed paths in the ‘80s while touring. And despite being admirers of each other’s work, it wasn’t until a mutual friend got involved that the two found an opportunity to collaborate.
Anderson, in a phone interview from his home in central California, recalled the origins of AndersonPonty Band.
“I was working with (a friend) in Oregon through the Internet… (He) said he knew Jean-Luc Ponty and he wanted to maybe ask him to play on this track we were doing, and I thought ‘wow, that would be so cool.’ ”
After Ponty performed on that track, Anderson was very happy with the result and he wanted to do more work with Ponty.
“I found a couple of tracks from the ’70s and one from the ’80s,” said Anderson, “and I sang some ideas on them and sent them to Jean-Luc in Paris. He loved them and said ‘this is really good, why don’t we write some songs?’ So we wrote two or three more and then we talked about doing a concert together and recording the concert. That’s what we did; we went up to Aspen, Colorado to [Wheeler Opera House], this beautiful opera house, and we rehearsed and recorded what was the basis of the album.”
They recorded with the band that includes Jamie Glaser on guitars, Wally Minko on keyboards, Baron Browne on bass and Rayford Griffinge on drums. They are all members of Jean Luc Ponty and His Band and have credits with many other notable artists as well.
“Better Late Than Never,” which was recorded in September, 2014, was finally released last month. It includes a CD of 14 songs plus a DVD that documents the making of the album as well as video from the concert.
Yes fans will be happy to hear rearranged versions of Yes classics including “Roundabout,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “And You and I” and “Wonderous Stories.”
Anderson acknowledged that Yes fans would want to hear some material that they’re familiar with.
“I love singing (those songs) anyway because I helped to write them,” said Anderson. “So it’s just a natural thing.”
The album also includes some of Ponty’s previous work, as well as material that they wrote together. Much of the collaborating is done online since Anderson lives in the U.S. and Ponty lives in France.
Despite being separated by miles, Anderson said it’s “very easy” to work that way.
“You just use the Internet… He will send (me) a rhythm section idea or piano work or something and… I sang the song. I just love to sing. If I’m inspired I love singing. I was inspired by Jean-Luc, of course, and in a way making music is not hard. It’s just a fun thing to do.”
Since the album was recorded Anderson and Ponty have had more opportunities to write together.
“We’ve actually written 5 songs this year that (aren’t) on this album but we’ll probably try 1 or 2 on tour and then record them next year together.”
Anderson and Ponty decided to join the popular trend of crowd funding for this project by launching a campaign through Kickstarter. Anderson had long liked the idea of bringing fans into the experience.
“First of all, I wanted to do this with Yes some 15 years ago when we were getting not very good feedback from the record companies… So I said, ‘Why don’t we get fans to sort of pool in their money and help to be part of the experience? Like $10 here, $20 there, and then… later on we’ll give them free T-shirts and things like that.’ The guys thought I was crazy. And I said, ‘No, we could get them to come to rehearsals, like a family experience, like a festival. A Yestival I called it in those days.’
“Of course, later on people started to realize to be part of an experience, even $30, $20, whatever, you become part of the family that helped create something. They’re doing it with movies now, they’re doing it with, obviously, records. They’ve been doing it with theater works, production… on every level. So it’s nothing but a good thing for people to be getting involved.”
One thing that the Kickstarter campaign did cause was some pressure for getting the album released and making good on the agreements with their donors.
“We hoped that we would have finished the album by February (or) March and then tour. But we were late with all our thinking because some of the recording didn’t work too well. We had to re-record some parts… and the video was a bit of a nuisance because it wasn’t really well shot initially so we had to do a lot of work on that. That took a lot of time and money.
“There (were) only maybe 4 or 5 [Kickstarter donors] who got upset… They put their complaints on the Internet and, of course, people see the complaints and think that’s it, but 90 percent (to) 95 percent of the people really are behind this project and now they’ve received the record, the CD and everything… So it’s better late than never. I think that’s why we called the album ‘Better Late Than Never’ because we were feeling frustrated (and) we didn’t want to let anybody down.’”
AndersonPonty Band starts their tour at the Keswick Theatre. The Philadelphia area has always embraced Anderson with Yes.
It’s a great place to start because they know me… A lot of them know Jean-Luc and I think they’re going be very happy and very surprised how good the band is because it’s quite a band. I’ve worked with lots of musicians in my life and these guys are the cream of the cream and it’s just going to be a wonderful experience and, of course, to be able to play in Philadelphia any time is brilliant.”
IF YOU GO
What: An Evening with AndersonPonty Band
When: Concert is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Where: Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside.
Tickets: $32.50 – $57.50
Ages: All Ages
Info.: Call (215) 572-7650 or check www.keswicktheatre.com.
Artist’s website: www.andersonpontyband1.com