253

Ralph Towner / Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro

David McLean By

Sign in to view read count
Ralph Towner / Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro 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, with a hint of Mediterranean atmosphere not dissimilar to bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi's ECM recordings.

"Punta Giara" is Chiaroscuro's jazziest piece. It's also the only instance of double-tracking, with Fresu's lush combination of trumpet and flugelhorn. Combining Kenny Wheeler's warm lyricism and fellow-Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava's distinctive rasp, Fresu's tone and range provide various opportunities for the duo to investigate timbral juxtaposition, the warmth of both horns emphasizing the crisp clarity of Towner's masterful playing. The haze of Fresu's voice swells underneath Towner's precise performance until the song becomes an interlocking, minor scale exchange between cascading horns and strings.



Two versions of "The Sacred Place"—the first, a solo feature for Towner—are by far Chiaroscuro's most serene pieces. Centered on a triumphant but melancholy melody, Towner's rustic, shimmering guitar is soaked with Fresu's fruity horn on the reprise, elevating the beauty of its melody.

Whereas Chiaroscuro's opening songs are characterized by a concerted effort to fill space naturally created by minimal performances, as it nears its end the compositions turn darker and more experimental. The gap between notes is stretched and exploited to create a more disquieting and, paradoxically, sonically rich affair. Fresu ascends on "Two Minatures" as Towner stabs the trumpeter's flight with jagged 12-string lines, the octaves singing with an eastern vernacular. Grating harmonics are married with Towner's deep, oaken percussives on "Postlude," with Fresu's tone increasingly more raspy towards its conclusion, creating an atmosphere unheard elsewhere on the album.

Chiaroscuro may be a misleading and inappropriate title for an album largely characterized by its warmth. While the first eight tunes are, indeed, beautiful and calming, they are both more predictable and less angular, less challenging. Hopefully this exciting duo's future work will be more equally balanced to highlight the fullest scope of their abilities.


Track Listing: Wistful Thinking; Punta Giara; Chiaroscuro; Sacred Place; Blue in Green; Doubled Up; Zephyr; Sacred Place (reprise); Two Miniatures; Postlude.

Personnel: Ralph Towner: classical, 12-string and baritone guitars; Paolo Fresu: trumpet, flugelhorn.

Title: Chiaroscuro | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Honey And Salt CD/LP/Track Review Honey And Salt
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 22, 2017
Read To the Bone CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2017
Read Flesh & Bone CD/LP/Track Review Flesh & Bone
by Troy Collins
Published: August 22, 2017
Read Generations CD/LP/Track Review Generations
by Jerome Wilson
Published: August 22, 2017
Read 90 Going On Amazing CD/LP/Track Review 90 Going On Amazing
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 21, 2017
Read Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter CD/LP/Track Review Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: August 21, 2017
Read "This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: May 29, 2017
Read "Resting in a Fold of the Fog" CD/LP/Track Review Resting in a Fold of the Fog
by John Eyles
Published: March 16, 2017
Read "Standard Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Standard Blue
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review The Unknown
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 10, 2016
Read "Crystal Machine" CD/LP/Track Review Crystal Machine
by Glenn Astarita
Published: June 23, 2017
Read "Resonance" CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 15, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.