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Ralph Towner: My Foolish Heart

Henning Bolte By

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If you are lucky enough to experience this guitarist live, the astonishment about the abundance and the richness of colors of his sound on the acoustic instrument should be extraordinary and should let you forget within minutes the bravura of electrified sound. Towner's wealthy guitar playing has something rather complete in itself. For him the solo recording revealed as a primary form of playing to be developed consistently through the years. His first solo album, Diary, dates from 1974 and his last one, Timeline, from 2006. Actually his first recorded solo pieces date from his 1972 recording with Glen Moore, Paul McCandless and Colin Walcott for ECM. On Diary Towner is still overdubbing himself but from then the combination of liners and layers continued on just one acoustic guitar. His six solo recordings since the mid seventies show a unique growing integration of complexity terminating in masterful economy of suggestive abbreviation in the music of his newest album.

Towner employs the full range of the acoustic instrument's possibilities in a stunning musical way. Changing imperceptible between lines he creates a flowing whole of multiple voices which could be indicated as orchestral. Often he exceeds the usual acoustic guitar sound as is especially impressive in "Clarion Call." Even though it is orchestral it would be very difficult for an ensemble to achieve an equal flow and contouring of the sound.

The album My Foolish Heart is a new occasion to indulge in this extraordinary refinement of strings. It is is a masterly resume of Towner's orchestral approach. It manifests itself in great inner consistency and amazing economy of his playing. Towner's rendition of the title piece "My Foolish Heart" is, in fact, a masterpiece of interplay in one hand. Just as astonishing is the brevity and strong force of a series of pieces in the second half of the album. The pieces, all about one and a half minutes, function as ensemble mutually reinforcing each other. As a mature essential of a long deep practice they are masterpieces of the art of hinting at and of great suggestive force.

One of the most beautiful passages of the album is the sequence of "Ubi Sunt," "Biding Time" and "Blue As In Bley." Time and again it is astounding how certain Towner's twists and turns emerge from new context or create new connections hereby not only providing hold for the listener but also calling for active shaping when listening. Towner never plays merely beautifully. For Towner's music beauty is coming forth from, is a result of alternating, mutually matching lines and layers.

Track Listing: Pilgrim; I’ll Sing To You; Saunter; My Foolish Heart; Dolomiti Dance; Clarion Call; Two Poets; Shard; Ubi Sunt; Biding Time; Blue As In Bley; Rewind.

Personnel: Ralph Towner: classical guitar and 12–string guitars

Title: My Foolish Heart | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ECM Records


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