Ralph Towner’s CD: "Chiaroscuro"

One of my favorite musicians, Ralph Towner, has finally released, after a period of nine long years, a new collaborative effort. Here he teams up with Paolo Fresu. Superlatives are so overused today that they are treated as fluff words. Yet, its hard not to want to use them to describe this work.

One of my favorite musicians, Ralph Towner, has finally released, after a period of nine long years, a new collaborative effort.  Here he teams up with Paolo Fresu.

Superlatives are so overused today that they are treated as fluff words.  Yet, its hard not to want to use them to describe this work.

This CD is pretty much perfect.  It has a strange fascinating fullness to it.  The way Towner plays the guitar, not single notes or strumming, but a rich harmonic that weaves sound and silence.  Towner’s playing serves to lead and accompany the superb trumpet work of Fresu, who’s phrasing and diction of the music evokes the feel of vocalist exuding emotion using mechanics of sound not words.

Why doesn’t music like this get Grammys?

In this CD the guitar and trumpet collaboration works great.  So great one wonders why it is not used more often.   Ralph Towner plays with a rich harmonic sound, and within the “full” playing, one can hear subtle technique and brilliance.    In “Zephyr” track 7, listen to the guitar intro, for example, where within the chords one briefly hears another string vibrate or twang giving the sound an intimacy and rawness.  Yet, this effect is not repeated or thrown in your face.

My favorite is the title track Chiaroscuro.  What a hauntingly simple yet so powerful “song”.  But, they are all good.  “Sacred Place” track 3 is solo baritone guitar that showcases the Towner sound, but in track 8 “The Sacred Place” (reprise), Fresu takes it to the next level, boldly reaffirming the theme.

For a professional level review read John Kelman’s article.
Also see this review: Ralph Towner, Sense and sensitivity by Anil Prasad.

Videos of Towner playing with Oregon and others are readily found on YouTube and other places, but they don’t really capture the sound as on a good CD recording such as those found on ECM in particular.

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Search on You Tube for R. Towner/P. Fresu collaboration

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Ralph Towner’s ” Spirit Lake “. Wonderfully, someone recording Ralph playing this piece. A superb “solo symphony’, in the words of one reviewer. This solo appears on the “Solo Concert [live]” CD.

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Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner made two CDs together: “Closer View” and “Oracle.” Both phenomenal examples of bass and guitar collaboration. One work I like, “Gaya”, is not available on youtube.

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Ralph Towner 2009 part 1″catching_up”

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Links

Ralph Towner 2009 part 1″catching_up”

Here is a video of the Oregon band from 1980 featuring the late Colin Walcott:

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