Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Azimuth with Ralph Towner - Départ (1980)

Autumnal ECM loveliness of the highest order.  Of course, that description could apply to about half of the label's catalogue, especially from its mid 70s to early 80s golden era.  This album though, recorded in the last month of the 70s, even has a track named Autumn, complete with suitably evocative lyrics from Norma Winstone.

Winstone, along with John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, had by this point recorded two wonderfully airy, hypnotic albums as Azimuth, taking as much inspiration from Reichian minimalism as from the British jazz scene of their backgrounds.  For this third outing, ECM 's Manfred Eicher suggested adding a guest guitarist, and all three requested Ralph Towner, who they'd met the previous year.

Towner's chiming 12-string is therefore the first accompaniment to be introduced to album opener The Longest Day, over the top of Taylor's circular piano figures, before Winstone and Wheeler begin to take flight.  He switches to classical guitar for the aforementioned Autumn, and for the first two parts of the Touching Points suite.  This mid-album four-parter is particularly interesting as there's increasingly less typically Azimuth drift and more choppy free improv (especially in the third section), plus a chance to hear Taylor on Terry Riley-esque organ on the fourth section.  He sticks to organ for the gorgeous title track's intro, returning to piano for Winstone's brief haiku-like lyric, before everyone soars into the stratosphere again.


see also: 
Sounds & Shadows (Towner)
Somewhere Called Home (Winstone with Taylor)
Double, Double You (Wheeler)


  1. I'd never actually seen that (very nice) album cover before, having only had the Azimuth triple CD reissue. Obviously I could have gone looking for it, but never thought of doing so.

  2. Very cool, thanks for sharing! Despite being both into Azimuth and Towner, this one slipped past my radar

  3. Ive got the trilogy on cd but the artwork on the LP you have is superior really love the subtle brilliance of ECM back in the day..Those three Azimuth albums are brilliant and a testament what mastery three musicians can conjure in a studio. All add their own trademark aesthetic without compromising the end result as a solo work.

  4. Interesting comments, folks - I know I've definitely overlooked this one in the past due it just being "Disc 3" in my copy of the Azimuth box, which was what spurred me to dig it out afresh and get hold of the proper album cover. Ended up enjoying Départ so much, I reckoned it was a dead-cert for posting here in its own right.

  5. It's about time I should THANK you for this wonderful blog & great music. You've enriched my life.

  6. I second the thanks, also emphatically!