Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
1

Guitarist Jimmy Ponder (1946-2013)

SOURCE:

Sign in to view read count
Jimmy Ponder
By Colter Harper

I first met Jimmy when he was teaching at a jazz camp for high school students in Pittsburgh. I was 15, recently turned on to Wes Montgomery, and trying to make sense of the music. Ponder was the first guitarist I had heard in person who embodied the music. He poured himself through the instrument. The sound of his thumb on the Gibson Super 400 was rich, warm, lyrical, and immediate. It was as if he had a quartet in the palm of his hand.

I made sure to catch his sets around Pittsburgh where he worked regularly with bassists Mike Taylor, Dave Pellow, Dwayne Dolphin, Jeff Grubs, and Tony Depaolis, drummers Roger Humphries, Tom Wendt, and Alex Peck, and pianist Howie Alexander among many others. I remember his sets with Mike Taylor at the Church Brew Works. The duo, tucked into an apse of the converted church, would link up on a telepathic level. A grin would grow across Mike's face and Ponder would explode into laughter as they delved into “Misty," transforming the song into something neither had heard before.

It was years later that we began to sit down together to talk and play music. I would go up to his apartment in the hills above Pittsburgh's Northside and we would go over solo guitar techniques. He always put emotion at the forefront, “What is your purpose!" He listened very closely to what I had to say and play never shying from criticism or praise. After the lesson, he would cook and we'd listen to Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, and many other artists over a beer. Music is more than a structure to be learned, it is something you have to consume.



Jimmy was not protective of the stage or his guitar. Music was always something to be shared, not hoarded away for a few sets. Sitting in on a set was always a transformative experience. Jimmy's Super 400 had absorbed his energy over the decades and listened just as intently as he did. I always felt that my honesty was being tested. Was I really cutting out the bullshit and saying something? Last March we finally arranged to play a gig together. Ponder had cut his finger the day before and the bandage made playing impossible. He laughed off my attempts at putting a silicone wrap on the deep cut and ended up playing the evening with no bandage. It was a great honor sharing the stage with Jimmy and we made plans to do it again. Unfortunately, he fell sick not long after.



Ponder was both a sun and a storm. He carried a great weight on his shoulders from past regrets but also stood defiantly with a smile on his face. It came out in his music where deadly seriousness, jest, and joy met. He lived to express and lift the pain of others using his gift from God. We will miss his laughter, his stories, and his song.

Jimmy singing “Our Day Will Come," Alone (2003)

Continue Reading...

Profiles
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Somebody's Child
Somebody's Child
HighNote Records
2007
buy
[no cover]
What's New
HighNote
2005
buy
[no cover]
Mean Streets - No...
HighNote
1987
buy
[no cover]
So Many Stars
HighNote
1985
buy
[no cover]
Down Here On The...
HighNote
1984
buy
[no cover]
Los Grandes Del Jazz...
HighNote
1981
buy
Ahmad Jamal Ahmad Jamal
piano
Kenny Burrell Kenny Burrell
guitar
Pat Martino Pat Martino
guitar
George Benson George Benson
guitar
Jimmy Smith Jimmy Smith
organ, Hammond B3
Art Blakey Art Blakey
drums
Gene Harris Gene Harris
piano
Grant Green Grant Green
guitar
Houston Person Houston Person
sax, tenor
Hank Mobley Hank Mobley
sax, tenor

Shop

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.