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|Birth name||James Willis Ponder|
|Born||May 10, 1946|
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||September 16, 2013 (aged 67)|
|Genres||Jazz, soul jazz|
|Labels||Cadet, Impulse!, Milestone, Muse, HighNote|
|Associated acts||Charles Earland|
When Ponder's brother entered the military, he left his guitar, and Ponder picked it up. In his early teens he received lessons from the guitarist in a band for which he sang doo-wop. He was drawn to the jazz guitar he heard on the radio. While playing in a rhythm and blues band, he occasionally inserted a jazz solo. He considered hearing guitarist Thornel Schwartz an important part of his life, when Schwartz was playing with organist Jimmy McGriff. He was impressed by Pat Martino when he saw Martino in the Jack McDuff band. He also cited as influences George Benson, Kenny Burrell, and Rene Thomas, though none surpassed the impact of seeing Wes Montgomery.
He learned the guitar solo from "Daily Double" (Choice), the only 45 rpm single released by Charles Earland. When Earland performed in Pittsburgh, he invited Ponder to sit-in with the band and liked what he heard. Earland promised Ponder he could become a member of the band after he finished high school. Six months after graduating, he was hired by Earland.
He began playing with Earland at 17 and in the following years with Lou Donaldson, Houston Person, Donald Byrd, Stanley Turrentine, and Jimmy McGriff. He moved to Philadelphia and later New York City in the 1970s and recorded extensively as a leader. Since the late 1980s, he frequently returned to his hometown to perform with his trio of two other Pittsburgh musicians, Gene Ludwig and Roger Humphries. Ponder's highest charting release was Somebody's Child, which reached No. 3 on the JazzWeek airplay chart in 2007.
Ponder died of lung cancer in Pittsburgh at the age of 67 in September 2013.
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Cadet, 1974)
- Illusions (ABC Impulse!, 1976)
- White Room (ABC Impulse!, 1977)
- All Things Beautiful (LRC, 1978)
- Seven Minds (America, 1979) released in France only
- Ponder'n (51 West, 1981)
- Down Here on the Ground (Milestone, 1984)
- So Many Stars (Milestone, 1985)
- Mean Streets – No Bridges (Muse, 1987)
- Jump (Muse, 1988 [rel. 1989])
- Come On Down (Muse, 1990 [rel. 1991])
- To Reach a Dream (Muse, 1988–1989 [rel. 1991])
- Jimmy Ponder: Sonny Lester Collection (LRC, 1991) compilation
- Soul Eyes (Muse, 1991 [rel. 1995])
- Something to Ponder (Muse, 1994 [rel. 1996])
- James Street (HighNote, 1997)
- Steel City Soul (32 Jazz, 1998) compilation of Muse material
- Guitar Christmas (HighNote, 1998)
- Ain't Misbehavin' (HighNote, 1998 [rel. 2000])
- Thumbs Up (HighNote, 2001)
- Alone (HighNote, 2000 [rel. 2003])
- What's New (HighNote, 2002 [rel. 2005])
- Somebody's Child (HighNote, 2007)
- Live at 'The Other End' (Explore, 1982 [rel. 2007])
With Lou Donaldson
With Charles Earland
- Boss Organ (Choice, 1969)
- Soul Crib (Choice, 1969)
- Smokin' (Muse, 1977)
- Mama Roots (Muse, 1977)
- Infant Eyes (Muse, 1978)
- Blues All Day Long (Muse, 1988)
- Hot Tat (Muse, 1991)
With Etta Jones
With Jimmy McGriff
- The Main Squeeze (Groove Merchant, 1974)
- Stump Juice (Groove Merchant, 1975)
- Tailgunner (LRC, 1977)
- City Lights (JAM, 1981)
- Movin' Upside the Blues (JAM, 1982)
- Skywalk (Milestone, 1984)
With Houston Person
- Wild Fire, Rusty Bryant (Prestige, 1971)
- Fancy Free, Donald Byrd (Blue Note, 1970)
- Grass Roots, Andrew Hill (Blue Note, 2000)
- Rippin' & Runnin', Johnny Hodges (Verve, 1968)
- In the Alley, Willis Jackson (Muse, 1976)
- Inward Fire, Clifford Jordan (Muse, 1978)
- The Fourth Dimension, Jack McDuff (Cadet, 1974)
- That Certain Feeling, John Patton (Blue Note, 1968)
- My Black Flower, Sonny Phillips (Muse, 1976)
- Superstition, Shirley Scott (Cadet, 1973)
- Mama Wailer, Lonnie Smith (Kudu, 1971)
- Joy of Cookin', Joe Thomas (Groove Merchant, 1972)
- Triplicity, Mickey Tucker (Xanadu, 1975)
- Common Touch, Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note, 1968)
- Come and See, Joe Lee Wilson (Explore, 2007)
- Nowlin, Rick (19 September 2013). "Obituary: Jimmy Ponder / One of Pittsburgh's great jazz musicians". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
- Barth, Joe. Voices in Jazz Guitar. Mel Bay. pp. 371–378. ISBN 0786676795.
- Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
- "Jimmy Ponder | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 January 2019.