Jimmy Ponder CDs
Somebody's Child /
Something to Ponder /
James Street /
Soul Eyes /
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Tim Berens Interviews Jimmy Ponder
By Amin Sharif
Jimmy Ponder has been making great jazz for at least a decade or more.
He is a conveyer of jazz performed smoothly as opposed to what passes
today for smooth jazz. This simply means that Ponder plays real jazz in
a manner that has groove, that is, undeniably linked to the guitar
tradition of cats like Kenny Burrell. This is not your Sunday brunch
jazz, nor the kind of jazz that is background music for upscale posers
who would never go anywhere near Parker or Mingus.
Jimmy's music is more cerebral than
the kind of poison you hear on those One-oh-One point whatever stations
that are popping up in every major radio market. You know those stations
that push Kenny G Christmas CDs. I simply love the way he plays the jazz
guitar. His CD—Something to Ponder—is
a great example of a musician that can touch all the bases—all
styles of real jazz guitar playing. What other cat would present
something as classic as Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" and Pharaoh
Sanders' "The Creator Has a Master Plan" on the same album. And, Jimmy
swings on both cuts.
Jimmy is one of those guys that may
never be fully appreciated but all but the true jazz fan. I was
introduced to Jimmy by a Nigerian cab drive in Baltimore on a simmer
summer day. As he drove me home from downtown, Jimmy had me chillin' all
the way home. And, as I stepped out of the cab, "The Creator Has a
Master Plan" was just coming through the cab's speakers. "That's a
Coltrane cut," the cabbie told me. "No," I corrected him. "That was cut
with Pharaoh Sanders' on sax and a Leon Thomas vocal."
smiled, waved and pulled off. My brother, Jamal, and I set out to find
which is no small feat in a city that is going over to hip hop, club
music, and fake jazz. I was glad I got it. Everything on the CD
swings. And, after tracking down many other of Ponder's work, I can say
that I have never been disappointed.
I am glad to post on CBJ with the kind
consent of Brother Tim Berens an interview that he did with
Ponder a few years back. I love this interview because it is
an interplay between two guitarists. Too many times jazz
critics are less concerned about the humanity of the artist
than the importance of his work. Jimmy comes off fully human
in this interview. This makes the interview not only an
artifact for jazz historians but for real jazz fans who want
flesh and blood of strings and keys of their instrument.
I would venture to say that if folks were
as concerned with the nature of Parker's humanity as they
were with his riffs, there might be a lot more of Parker's
music around. But that is grist for another conversation.
I am deeply indebted to Tim for his
generosity in allowing CBJ to post this interview. It is guys like Tim
that make it a pleasure to be in cyberspace. If you dig the interview,
please check out his site
www.Timberens.com . He's got more great stuff for you to read and
enjoy. It is our hope that Tim will send in interviews and articles that
we can post on our site. So, Tim, when you read this, know that our
doors are always open to you. Thanks a lot.
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Tim Berens: Did you work much when you
Jimmy Ponder: I would always make it a
point to try to work as much as possible, regardless of what I
I would take whatever I did know everywhere
with me. More times than not I would fall flat on my face if it
was a jazz engagement. There were clubs on the north side here
in Pittsburgh, when I was 15 or 16, where I was told that if I
didn't play to the crowd's satisfaction, I might get beat up.
And I took the engagement anyway and I played.
Tim Berens: How much did you practice
as a kid?
Jimmy Ponder: When I was a kid I would
practice an average of six hours a day. And I continued that
when I went on the road. Charles Earland came through
Pittsburgh—it was 1963. He came to The Hurricane with the
Charles Earland trio. And the guitar player was asleep on the
job and I had gotten a copy of his latest 45 entitled
"Daily Dozen" and I learned the guitar solo backwards
and forwards. And Bertie Dunlap, who was at the time the owner
of The Hurricane, she allowed me to play and I sat in and I
played that song to death for Charles Earland. And I told him
"My mother is not gonna let me go out of town until I get
my diploma. So 2 years later, he came back. He said "Are
you ready to go?" and I said "Yes, indeed". And I
never looked back until four and 1/2 years ago, when I moved
back to Pittsburgh.
Tim Berens: You had very little formal
Jimmy Ponder: None. None whatsoever.
I've had only one guitar lesson and that was in around '66 from
a guitarist that worked with Jimmy MacGriffe name Thornell
Schwartz. He had me come over to his place one afternoon and I
sat and I listened and I learned a great deal. And that was the
only lesson I have ever had.
Other than that I've sat and I've listened
and deciphered and I've taught myself. But also that's kind of
selfish. The world teaches you whether you want the lesson or
not. The more people you work with the more you're exposed to
and you take that home and you put that into your scheme of
Tim Berens: Are you a good reader?
Jimmy Ponder: No. I haven't done a lot
of reading studio work or stage shows where you have to read, so
consequently my reading is not a particularly high level. But I
do teach basic fundamental reading to any guitar player who
comes into my presence to deal with studying. I teach them how
to teach themselves how to read.
Tim Berens: Do you now play
exclusively for a living?
Jimmy Ponder: I try to make a decent
living playing the music and dealing with the performance side
of it and then to teach and then writing and recording.
Everything supplements everything and it's still not enough.
Tim Berens: I think it's interesting
that a player at your level has to teach to supplement the
Jimmy Ponder: Well like I said, it's
still not enough. I live below the poverty level and that is a
travesty. It is a terrible thing because I know what I do with
the guitar and there's no guitar player that's aware of jazz
that is not aware of me. But my time is coming as long as I
persevere and continue doing good things. I got into it loving
it and you're never paid for what you love. You're never paid
what you're worth.
Tim Berens: Do you like recording?
Jimmy Ponder: I love it. Recording is
quite a challenge. If you're not prepared, the recording
equipment will let you know. If you are prepared it's like
nothing else in the world—it's like having a baby.
I put everything I have into the music, and
hopefully the spirituality about my music is what prevails. It's
not the mathematics of it or the articulation, in so far as
dealing with the amount of notes I can play within a given span
of time. It is how it feels to the people that hear the music.
How it makes them feel. That is my purpose—to please.
Tim Berens: Do you ever use a pick
when you play?
18 years ago, yeah. Until I saw Wes, I was using a pick.
I was a speed freak after hearing Pat Martino and George Benson
at The Hurricane. I only saw George one time with Jack McDuff
and it was amazing. I had been working towards that long before
because I had listened to a radio station from Rochester, WHAM.
Harry Abrahms would play guitarists from Europe and from all
over the country and I would listen all night, every night till
the wee hours, get up and go to school, come home and practice
what I could retain from listening to the radio.
Tim Berens: And when you heard Wes
play, you stopped using a pick?
Jimmy Ponder: When I heard "The
man is not using a pick," I said, "Yeah, Right."
While I was working with Charles Earland we did a job in
Atlanta. And Wes and his brothers, "The Master Sounds"
were working at another club. I went over to the club to hear
this man and ended up sitting in. I had the nerve at 18 to sit
in on Wes's gig. His brothers were insulted, but I had a whole
rhythm section with me and I played a Kenny Burrell tune called
"Chitlins Con Carne" on Wes's guitar. I had to touch
his guitar and hope that something out of that guitar would seep
into my bones, and it did.
He [Wes Montgomery] heard me play and came up
to the stage and said, "Yeah, I like what you are
doing." He would come over to the club I was playing after
he was done and he would sit right in front of the band stand.
He would sit there and have his breakfast and my heart was ready
to jump out of my throat.
Years later, he brought people up to Harlem
to the Club Baron. One lady worked for Atlantic records. She was
a good friend of Wes's. He told her about hearing me in Atlanta.
And he told her that I was his legacy. I would carry on his
form—his expression of the music and the approach. She didn't
tell me that until after he passed.
Tim Berens:: Do you, at your level,
get excited when you are around a big name player like, say,
Jimmy Ponder: Well, it is all about
mutual respect. I have earned the right to be around whomever
I'm around. I wouldn't care who it is—it could be the Pope.
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More Comments from Jimmy Ponder
Great artistry comes from people of
I am here first and foremost to take
care of people's feelings. If I am playing for them, I
will take them to another place where they don't feel
their pain or their sorrows or their anxieties for a
moment in time.
I happen to be a very aggressive
guitarist. I don't regard the guitar as a singular - it
is an orchestra.
I approach playing with a particular
type of controlled madness.
I don't care what race of people,
what culture of people or where they are located. Let me
play for you. That is my conviction.
If you're a professional, you put
your ego aside and you say to who ever's in charge
"What do you need from me?"
When I'm doing my thing, I'm going to
exude the qualities that I have worked to exhibit, and
that is tone quality, projection, emotion, spirituality.
That is what reaches people.
I'm not here to please mathematicians
or statisticians or mechanical afficianados. I am here
to play for ordinary people. Let me play for you and
satisfy your soul. That is my purpose.
People relate very quickly to the
human voice, especially the ladies. If the ladies don't
buy the albums, don't wait for the dudes. The dudes
follow the ladies. That's why George Benson sings so
many romantic songs.
If I die in poverty, I've had the
best life can offer which is love, admiration and
respect of my public and my friends. You can't ask for
that. You can't buy it.
Jimmy Ponder Bio
Jimmy Ponder, 48 years of age, is well known
among serious lovers of jazz guitar. He has played with many of
the finest jazz musicians of the era including Dizzy Gillespie,
Stanley Turrentine, Groove Holmes, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big
Band, Hank Crawford, Jimmy MacGriffe, Jack McDuff, and Sonny
He began playing at age 11 and is a
self-taught musician. While he did not attend college, he now
teaches at several colleges and is an artist-in-residence at
Duquesne University. Even though he is a south paw, Ponder
learned to play right handed. He began his musical life playing
"doo-wop" music, and his earliest influences included
The Temptations and early Stevie Wonder.
He quickly fell in love with jazz and has
played jazz exclusively for almost all of his professional life.
His played his first professional gig at age 11, and was playing
clubs in Philadelphia regularly by age 13. He has played on
approximately 80 albums in his life.
He now records for Muse Records, and has
released four albums including Come On Down, which earned
a four-star review in Downbeat magazine and remained on
the jazz charts for several months.
Tim Berens Self-Portrait http://timberens.com/yourhost/selfportrait.htm
Originally published in the March, 1995 issue of the newsletter
of the Cincinnati Jazz Guitar Society.
posted 30 August 2005
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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
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Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
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