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.
mega / zippy