Pittsburgh Jazz Legends 16: Jimmy Ponder

Thursday, 19 September 2013 06:10 AM Written by 

Pittsburgh has had its share of great guitarists. Barry Galbraith, Joe Negri, George Benson, Ron Anthony, Sheryl Bailey, Ken Karsh and Jimmy Ponder, who died Monday at 67, far, far too soon.

Ponder was up there at the top. He carried the spirits of Charlie Christian, Kenny Burrell and especially Wes Montgomery in a distinctive style that yielded, and worked with some of the heavy hitters. Fellow Pittsburgh legend Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Hodges, Donald Byrd, Shirley Scott, Hank Crawford and Houston Person. He also worked with several jazz organ icons: John Patton, Brother Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Jimmy McGriff. 

The PG has an obituary, but a definitive profile on Ponder, the best that will ever be written, appeared earlier this year in the magazine Fretboard Journal  Issue 28 (still available) by one of his students, Rusted Root's Colter Harper, who wrote his 2006 Pitt Master's Thesis on Ponder.   FJ Publisher Jason Verlinde has noted Ponder's passing as well.

(Disclosure: I've written for FJ in the past).

There are many examples of his playing on YouTube, but these few speak for themselves.

"Buster Brown," from Stanley Turrentine's 1968 Blue Note album Common Touch with Ponder, organist Shirley Scott, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Idris Muhammad.

"All Blues" from Ponder's 1991 album On The Town.

Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' On Sunset"

"Summertime" from May 20, 2008, the Backstage Bar" Tony DePaolis, bass; Don DePaolis, keyboard and drummer Alex Peck.

A video tribute montage to Ponder runs atop his 1983 rendering of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" from his album Down Here On The Ground.

"Angel Eyes" "All Blues" and "The Creator Has A Master Plan," from March 7 of this year at the James Street Tavern on the North Side with Tom Wendt on drums, guitarist Colter Harper and bassist Tony DePaolis.

Thanks, Jimmy. Like so many other Pittsburgh jazz legends, you blazed your own trail, and you made a difference that won't be forgotten.

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