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Ralph Towner: The Accidental Guitarist

Mario Calvitti By

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AAJ: Some of your guitar compositions have entered the repertoire of some classical players, and have also been recorded. Have you heard their renditions, and what do you think of them?

RT: I'm delighted to hear that a few classical people have taken an interest in my writing and playing. I was extremely flattered to meet some of the great classical guitarists such as John Williams, Manuel Barrueco, Leo Brouwer and the Assad brothers who said they were fans of my music. I hope to make a few inroads in being included in some of the classical player's programs.

AAJ: How long have you been staying in Italy, and how did the move change your musical lifestyle?

RT: I've been living in Italy for 24 years, 10-11 in Palermo and then Rome. I think my musical life is still going because of my wonderful italian love, Mariella Losardo. I was 50 when we met, she already had a great career as a theater actress in Toni Servillo's group and was traveling a lot, doing like 8 months tours for years and years. She was a fan of my music and of Oregon's music, thanks to one of our friends, Tobia Vaccaro, a musician in Palermo, who was a huge fan of Oregon and was playing it for everybody. I met Mariella at a concert. I had been living alone for 10 years in Seattle after I had left New York. I met her and that was it. It took up to a year or so to get to the place where we moved in together. She's an italian actress and I was coming from the U.S. but my work was in Europe anyway... I have a European booking agency, a European record company, and all the concerts all over the world. So it was easy for me to relocate, I was so accustomed to Europe anyway, and it wasn't a cultural shock even to move to Palermo, because I wanted her to keep her career.

AAJ: What are your current active projects?

RT: Let me see... the MGT trio [with fellow guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan] is still active, but there are logistics problems. Slava lives in Australia and is very busy, as is Wolfgang, so coordinating that trio is very difficult as much as we love to play together. Slava is suggesting that we do another Australian tour, we have done three of those already. My wife loves Australia, so she's very excited. Slava has come to Europe for some concerts, there was a kind of honorary concert for me in Stuttgart, and both he and Wolfgang were available, so they agreed to play half the concert with me and I played the other half. That was nice, it was the last time we played together [in 2015, Ed.]

AAJ: Anything else coming in your future?

RT: There is a nice theatre piece that we did with Mariella, I play the music live. It's a piece called "Madeleine Suite," it's based on a short story of Marguerite Yourcenar. We first performed that years ago, and did a version for the Swiss radio, and also performed it in concerts. We're about to do a video tape of it. Oregon is releasing a new record, we just finally mixed it so that's coming out on CAMjazz, and hopefully we'll do some touring with that. I have a few other concerts basically spread around, but no big projects at this point.

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