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 of improvisational brilliance.
Only his third solo recital for ECM (the others being 1973's Diary and 1996's Ana ), Anthem contains all the earmarks of Towner's flair for melding composition with spontaneous improvisation. Among the several more lengthy pieces we find two suites featuring short vignettes- "Four Comets" and "Three Comments." With a nod towards the jazz legacy, there's Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step" and Mingus' "Goodbye, Pork-Pie Hat." Utilizing both classical and 12-string guitars, a perfect forum for the latter and a highpoint of the album comes via the bluesy "Raffish." Reflective and calm, "Very Late" reminds one of the reasons why Towner seems to win over even those folks who claim to have an aversion to solo discs of any kind. Magical and precious, Anthem is a keeper.
1. Solitary Woman 2. Anthem 3. Haunted 4. The Lutemaker 5. Simone 6. Gloria's Step 7-10. Four Comets 11. Raffish 12. Very Late 13. The Prowler 14-16. Three Comments 17. Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat