Monday, 27 November 2017

Ralph Towner - Solo Concert (1980)

Just before heading to Oslo to meet up with Azimuth for Départ, Ralph Towner was performing solo in Europe, with dates in Munich and Zurich providing the recordings for this spellbinding live album.  Sometimes known as 'Köln for the guitar', the comparison only really works inasmuch as they're both high watermarks in ECM's catalogue of concert recordings; there's no epic improvisations here, just seven perfectly rendered compositions, four of them Towner originals.

Opening with a flourish of echoing harmonics, Solo Concert grabs the listener right from the off with its longest and most spectacular track - the shimmering 12-string waves of Spirit Lake.  The rich, reverberating acoustics of these recordings also illuminate the nylon-string performances like Ralph's Piano Waltz (one of two John Abercrombie compositions here) that follows next.

Things get more intricate and spidery with Train Of Thought, one of the best explorations of Towner's virtuoso technique here, but to be honest that could be said of the whole record.  The Miles Davis standard Nardis hits a fresh new groove, and the closing take on Abercrombie's Timeless is just... timeless.  If you only own one Ralph Towner record, make it this one.

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4 comments:

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  2. This IS an early Towner classic and really showcases what a dynamic composer and guitarist he is. Solo and Diary are two of my favorite(ok there's more but Ill pick these 2) Towner solo albums. Diary plainly for the eloquent Icarus and Solo Concert for his interpretations of Nardis and Timeless(as you the blogster has poignantly mentioned!) Warm, thick & swirly tapestries of six string goodness for the mind body and soul! Thanks!

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  3. The prospect of making such a recording should scare the hell out of any guitarist: Just you, a microphone, and a fully acoustic guitar. You are live in front of a real audience. There is no hiding, no opportunity for studio corrections, and your real-time playing is absolutely naked. And there are no other musicians to rescue you if you screw something up. Do it right, or you are immutably exposed. Not only does Ralph Towner pull it off with no embarrassments, he absolutely sings in this soaring performance. This recording truly must be included in any top-10 list of ECM recordings, it is a document for the ages.

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