The multi-talented musician Lorenza Ponce has toured the world playing violin alongside such artists as Ben Folds, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, John Tesh (!) and Thriving Ivory. As Lorenza explains, her rock debut Soul Shifter represents “a style change from the classical training and new age music of my past, while incorporating the ‘graduate degree’ I have earned at the school of rock star employers and mentors.”
Soul Shifter was produced, recorded and mixed by Matt Wells in New York City using instruments from his collection of vintage items, such as an equalizer from Hitsville USA (the original Motown studio); the Fender Rhodes Mick Jones used on Foreigner’s hits and even a cowbell Matt’s brother “borrowed” from Foghat in the 70s!
The title track is a tribute to one of Lorenza’s icons, Sinatra.
“A ‘Soul Shifter’ is someone who will turn your blue mood into joy and laughter, without you even thinking about it. They are so cool, or funny, or genuine, that you can’t help being drawn into their world. Frank Sinatra was one of these people. Obviously I never met him, but his music, charm, and talent were so significant that to listen to him sing, read his interviews, or watch him performing, is uplifting. He was a Soul Shifter. I also consider Dolly Parton and Keith Richards to be in this group as well.”
Growing up on a farm in Maryland, Lorenza had a prescient idea of her career path. “Even though I chose the violin, I always knew I would be a non-classical musician, and as soon as I found out that there was a NYC, I knew that was where I would live. So as soon as I was legal, that’s where I headed.”
Keyboardist Joe McGinty recommended Lorenza for her first session and a chance meeting with Jon anderson of Yes led to a collaboration on his album Deseo (Windham Hill, 1994). Anderson encouraged Lorenza to start writing her own music as well, and her solo debut as a classical crossover artist, Imago, was released in 1997 by EMI/Angel Records.
Ever eager to take to the road as well as developing her solo work, Lorenza toured with new agers Kitaro and John Tesh and appears in the An Enchanted Evening and One World videos documenting those shows. Ponce’s strength as a performer/instrumentalist was recognized by The St. Petersburg Times: “Ponce is a violin virtuoso, plucking her strings while singing on the ethereal ‘Canta Domine.’”
As a first call session player, Lorenza was part of the string quintet that accompanied Sheryl Crow on the theme for the James Bond film
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). Lorenza next worked with her on The Globe Sessions, where she broke a cardinal rule of her session work and gave the artist a copy of her record.
“I was hanging on a break, talking about the Bond session with Sheryl, and a little voice said, ‘ask her if you can give her a record.’ That moment changed my life.”
Sheryl invited Lorenza to play on her VH1 Storytellers special, which led to the violinist accompanying her on the subsequent world tour. Lorenza credits Sheryl Crow for her transformation from New Age sidewoman to rock chick.
“Sheryl was Patsy Cline to my Loretta Lynn. She encouraged me to pick up the guitar again, and in addition to hiring me to write string arrangements for her recordings, bought me my first really good pair of leather pants. And she encouraged me to keep making solo records”
Ponce subsequently recorded another solo new age album, Mystic Fiddler (Melodia, 2000) and returned to write orchestral arrangements for Sheryl Crow’s C’mon, C’mon (A&M, 2002). When it was time to hire a conductor, Crow handed Lorenza the baton and insisted she take the podium. This experience was critical in Lorenza being responsible for writing string arrangements (and touring with) The Dixie chicks, along with her more recent work with rock icons Bon Jovi.
“After the tragedy of 9/11, every person wanted to help. I was thrilled when I got a call to play the Tribute to Heroes Telethon with Jon Bon Jovi and richie Sambora. I had never met them, but it turned out to be the start of a good musical collaboration.”
Lorenza also played the historic Concert For New York with Bon Jovi, as well as smaller benefits for the families of the servicemen lost from Jon’s hometown. It’s no wonder Lorenza has such deep regard for the band. “It was an honor to be part of their contribution to healing.”
Lorenza became a permanent member of Jon’s solo acoustic group (which mainly plays charity and political events) and was subsequently asked to join the Bon Jovi Lost Highway tour, which featured her prominently.
“After completing a rock tour as big as Lost Highway, I knew I was ready to make my own rock record. My writing had been shifting towards rock for several years. My new record represents that.”