Thursday, December 10, 2009

John Pondel: John Pondel

RGR Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 12.10.09
Buy CD: John Pondel

Guitarist John Pondel is a first-call artists who has played with — and for — darn near everybody over the years, but he isn't well known outside the musical fraternity. Born in Chicago but raised in California, Pondel spent several years choosing an instrument; he began with accordion, flute and clarinet but didn't get hooked until his brother introduced him to the guitar.

By the age of 20, Pondel was playing with the Gerald Wilson Band and was on his way to becoming a studio musician. He worked with most of the West Coast jazz luminaries, then moved to New York City. His band Jazzhole was one of the seminal groups in the acid jazz genre; the unit records to this day.

Pondel's current group, a trio, features bassist Scott Colley and drummer Marivaldo Dos Santos; this album adds David Binney on alto sax and flute. The resulting sound bears no resemblance to acid, rock, fusion or hip-hop; it's relaxed and soothing. All the tracks are originals, all done at mid-tempo.

The result is one of the nicest sets of “background” jazz I've heard in quite awhile, and that descriptor is by no means negative. This is the kind of music you'd enjoy filling your room with while reading, studying or entertaining friends during a quiet get-together.

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