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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner / John Abercrombie: Five Years Later

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The long overdue release of Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie's Five Years Later, originally released in 1982, may well be the most eagerly anticipated of the Re:Solutions series that brings into print--on CD (four titles for the first time, Five Years Later previously only available for a limited time in Japan), vinyl and high resolution digital formats--seven historic ECM recordings. Add the three Abercrombie Quartet albums recorded immediately prior to Five Years Later--1979's Arcade, 1980's Abercrombie Quartet and 1981's M, planned for release later this year in an Old & New Masters Edition box--and all of these two seminal guitarists' ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner / Wolfgang Muthspiel / Slava Grigoryan: Travel Guide

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Following an early series of ensemble releases for ECM (the label he's called home as a leader since 1973), Ralph Towner ushered in the new millennium by focusing on solo explorations with Anthem (2001) and Time Line (2006). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but after classic records like Solstice (1975) and Batik (1978), there are those who have long pined for the days when the guitarist/pianist collaborated more regularly with others beyond Oregon, the groundbreaking group shared with bassist Glen Moore and woodwind/reed multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless for more than 40 years. The same trio appearing on ...

UNSUNG HEROES

Laurindo Almeida, Charlie Byrd, and Ralph Towner

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The concert guitar is hailed by many as the perfect instrument. After being perfected in the Baroque age, virtuosos believed the wooden torso to posses the variety of an orchestra. The concert guitar produces a wide range of tone, timber, color, and dynamic expression unlike any other stringed instrument, capable of projecting a delicate voice of pure emotion. As music enters the age of electrified sound, fewer players seem to have the audacity to unplug. But amongst a mass of music technicians, there exists a small sect of quiet practitioners who seek unadulterated acoustic purity. Undistorted tones. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner / Paolo Fesu: Chiaroscuro

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In a stuffed, empty room, rays of moonlight spill through a cobwebbed window and come licking a tired hardwood floor to the feet of an old, stiff chair. On it, the silhouette of a guitar; its strings, silent. At its side, a second chair with an embossed trumpet planted alongside a lonely music stand completes the tableau. Music was made in this imaginary place. But the tones have since vanished in the still air, leaving a feeling of nostalgia and of deep solitude. Moments before, two artists deeply lost in concentration--acoustic guitarist Ralph Towner and trumpeter Paolo Fresu--painted soundscapes so ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner / Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro

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Since moving to Italy over a decade ago, guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner's output as a leader has been woefully infrequent, with only two discs released this decade--2001's Anthem and 2006's Time Line, both on the label that's been his home for over 35 years, ECM. It's not that he hasn't been busy; he continues to work and record regularly with Oregon, the group that he co-founded nearly 40 years ago, heard most recently on the Grammy Award-nominated 1000 Kilometers (Cam Jazz, 2007), and on From a Dream (Material, 2009), in a stellar guitar trio with Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner / Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro

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After Enrico Rava, the most important trumpet player in Italy is Paolo Fresu. The fact that he is not well known in the United States may be about to change, because he is now an ECM recording artist. The label has placed him with major people: Carla Bley on The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu in 2007 and now guitarist Ralph Towner on Chiaroscuro. A pairing of trumpet and acoustic guitar is unusual. Towner and Fresu have played together rarely and never before as a duo but they are made for each other. Both are post-modernist romantics ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner / Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro

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Continuing his long and fruitful relationship with Manfred Eicher's ECM Records--yielding a slew of successful solo records and concerts, acclaimed group work with Oregon and Solstice (also featuring Jan Garbarek), and duo work with John Abercrombie, Gary Peacock and Gary Burton--guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner has become something of an icon for the German label. Chiaroscuro marks another chapter in Towner's longstanding interest in duo work, this time pairing himself with Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu. This largely restrained and meditative duo explores, over the course of ten pieces including Miles Davis/Bill Evans' “Blue in Green," the tonal variants of brass and strings, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

MGT: Wolfgang Muthspiel / Slava Grigoryan / Ralph Towner: From a Dream

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For over a decade now--at least on record--guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner has worked exclusively in two contexts: solo guitar albums under his own name for ECM, including Time Line (2006), and collaboratively with his longstanding group Oregon, last heard on 1000 Kilometers (Cam Jazz, 2007). Though never less than satisfied, many of his fans have hoped he'd participate in other contexts, as he's a flexible player who brings his distinctive harmonic approach to any setting, while adapting with ease to whatever challenges might arise. From a Dream is the answer to that wish: a trio album with Austrian guitarist ...

LIVE REVIEWS

An Evening with Ralph Towner

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Ralph Towner An Die Musik Baltimore, MD June 23, 2006

There is often a predisposition, for whatever reason, to categorize and compartmentalize both the manner of existence and the means of expression. Our food, friends, neighborhoods, automobiles and clothes are all neatly isolated and segregated into predisposed sections meant to conform to our already limited experiences and expectations. Of course, music is a frequent victim of such oft brutal and dismissive exercises and, as a result, the artist is both banished and liberated into the welcoming aural universe of the relative free-thinker. Music ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Ralph Towner: Time Line and Siroko

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Ralph Towner Time Line ECM 2006 Olivier Ker Ourio Siroko Nocturne 2005

As the nylon strings of Ralph Townerâ????s classical guitar or the steel of his 12-string react to the intrepid actions of his fingers, soothing intricacies flow toward the walls and settle among the shadows. Sharp harmonics shoot up into the eaves. With the release of his fifth solo album, Time Line, the guitarist had the opportunity ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner: Time Line

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Few artists have made the art of solo performance a significant part of their body of work. If a pianist is around long enough, you can expect the occasional solo recording. But except for Keith Jarrett, few pianists have made solo performance a fundamental part of their discography. The same applies to the guitar, where Ralph Towner is another obvious exception. While Towner's 35-year affiliation with Oregon gives him an outstanding ensemble with which to explore group interaction, the majority of his discography as a leader has been about the intimacy of the duo and the insulated world of the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner: Time Line

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In an essay about Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges asserted that great writers create their precursors. Guitarist Ralph Towner makes no secret about the influence of pianist Bill Evans on his musical style. He places “My Man's Gone Now at the end of this new solo recital, raising expectations of an Evans-like record. (Evans didn't compose the song but will be forever linked to it, thanks to his classic trio's recording from the Village Vanguard in June 1961.)

Evans' music is melancholy, evoking late nights, smoky clubs and unhealthy living; like Billie Holiday, he excelled at deconstructing popular songs that bordered ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner: Anthem

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Ralph Towner recently turned 60, and his age has only made him more eloquent, more imaginative, more able to cast a spell. Anthem, his new solo guitar record and his 20th title for ECM, is the follow-up to 1997's solo recital, Ana. It also coincides with ECM's reissue of Diary, Towner's 1974 effort, on which he plays both guitar and his first instrument, piano. (He didn't begin playing guitar until age 23.) These solo albums are precious few in number--be sure not to overlook 1980's Solo Concert--and Towner has never before released two of them consecutively.Unlike Ana, the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ralph Towner: Anthem

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Now in his 61st year, guitarist and composer Ralph Towner can look back on the great tapestry that has made up his musical life over the preceding decades. For the past 30 years he's been associated with ECM Records, a distinction that has allowed him to express his own muse in a way that many artists would simply find enviable. He's been a vital member of the group Oregon and has worked with a large stable of singular artists including Keith Jarrett, Kenny Wheeler, Egberto Gismonti, John Abercrombie, and Gary Burton. Then there's Towner's own idiosyncratic catalog, ripe with moments ...



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