186

Ralph Towner: Anthem

David Adler By

Sign in to view read count
Ralph Towner: Anthem 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 second half of which was devoted to the 12-string, Anthem finds Towner mainly playing nylon-string. The exceptions are the opener, "Solitary Woman," with its ringing harmonies and loose, flowing rhythm; "Three Comments," a minimalist mini-suite; and "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat," the Mingus classic, offered as a brief and moving finale. The nylon-string pieces are characteristically brilliant: no one but Towner could think up the spine-tingling arpeggiated runs of "The Lutemaker," or the entirely single-note storyline of the "Four Comets" suite, or the soulful mood and tempo of "The Prowler," or the crystalline chords of "Very Late"—clearly a rejoinder to Bill Evans's "Very Early." Towner also puts his stamp on Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," which like the Mingus tune is one of jazz's more enigmatic masterpieces.

Some lazily relegate Towner (and other ECM artists) to the New Age category. But New Age music is notorious for its stasis, whereas Towner's is full of movement. The improvisational energy and highly involved counterpoint that Towner brings to all his pieces is cut from an entirely different cloth. Moreover, Towner's restless straddling of genres speaks to a depth of musical knowledge that purveyors of "mood music" rarely possess, if ever. His guitar may soothe, certainly. But with its Bach-like propulsion, its exquisitely balanced blend of solemnity and playfulness, and its references to classical, jazz, and avant-garde musics, Towner's work is not a lightweight thing. Anthem is perhaps the finest example yet of its luminescence.


Track Listing: 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

Personnel: Ralph Towner: classical and 12-string guitars

| Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Eight Track II" CD/LP/Track Review Eight Track II
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 4, 2016
Read "America's National Parks" CD/LP/Track Review America's National Parks
by John Sharpe
Published: November 11, 2016
Read "True Love Collection" CD/LP/Track Review True Love Collection
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "Carrera Quinta Big Band" CD/LP/Track Review Carrera Quinta Big Band
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 26, 2016
Read "The Way You Say It" CD/LP/Track Review The Way You Say It
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 10, 2016
Read "Bring Joy" CD/LP/Track Review Bring Joy
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 4, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!