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Ralph Towner: My Foolish Heart

Nenad Georgievski By

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There is no lack of poise in guitarist Ralph Towner's music. As the principle writer and guitarist for the band Oregon, a group which since 1970 has blended jazz, world music, and classical elements together, he has garnered a well-deserved reputation as one of the most virtuosic guitar players ever. For years, Towner has been consistently one of the most interesting guitars who captivated guitar fans worldwide with his sublime guitar playing, virtuosic original compositions, and innovative guitar arrangements.

My Foolish Heart finds Towner on his own with a guitar and the result is this very intimate and hushed affair. Towner's mastery of the guitar and harmonic subtlety are on full display on each track. Apart from the title track, all the other compositions are impressive originals. Towner is an excellent technician who has absorbed various guitar styles and musics, and he can alter his approaches at will without any trace of showiness. Moreover, he possesses an appreciation of classic beauty and eagerness to experiment, a technique to realize whatever he imagines, depth of feeling and sparkling touch. On this record, he exhibits a great attention to space and lyricism that in return takes his playing to a different level. While he masterfully blends classical music, folk, and improvisations, his compositions are strong on emotional expression and lyrical depth like the opener, the bristling "Pilgrim."

The music ebbs and flows and there is a great variety of moods. The sound is equally important as much as the notes that are played and Towner explores a range of tones, from warm to woody or edgy, but almost always perfect. Abstract yet lyrical, compositions such as "I'll Sing for You" "Clarion Calls" "Saunter" "Two Poets" or "Blue as in Bley" achieve a hushed beauty which stately themes pulsate with determination as they work their way toward wonder. Towner leads his way through these compositions with an unerring instinct for drama, melody, variety, and communication. Further, he even dives deep into his past catalog with Oregon to reach for compositions such as "Shard" and the closing "Rewind."

Towner's compositions and playing are simply put absorbing. He showcases his compositions in a way that demonstrates their diversity while highlighting the command with which he approaches his instrument. The improvising is exceedingly well integrated into the compositions, enough so that its' often hard to tell where the seams are. On this record, there is a music flow or an inner sense that connects these little gems of compositions into a greater whole. There is something really special about this record. Indeed, My Foolish Heart is a compelling collection where every song carries its own emotional resonance.

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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