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Album Review

Ralph Towner's a difficult case. The snoozy noodlings of his former band Oregon can be downright stupefying, but his solo work is often, though not always, quite a bit more interesting. Open Letter walks both sides of the line, but succeeds more often than it fails. Towner teams up with jazz drummer Peter Erskine on this set, and while guitar and drums may sound like kind of a dry instrumentation, Towner fleshes things out with some synthesizer and Erskine puts electronic percussion to tasteful use. But it's the more traditional fare that is most successful here — while "Magic Pouch," awith its imitation flute, is almost a new age parody, the similarly gentle "Nightfall" hits the spot perfectly, and Towner's solo turn on the Bill Evans classic "Waltz for Debby" is exquisite. In general, Towner seems to do best with standards rather than originals; he acquits himself beautifully on "I Fall in Love Too Easily," but the faux-Spanish modality and synthesized seagull cries of "Alar" sound like muzak for tourists. Other Towner compositions, notably "The Sigh" and "Short 'n Stout," are far more successful.


Born: 05 June 1954 in Somers Point, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A highly skilled, versatile drummer, Peter Erskine has anchored big bands and jazz-rock/fusion groups. He's known for sophisticated rhythms, distinctive accompaniment, and powerful, rippling solos. Erskine began drumming at three, and participated in Stan Kenton's National Stage Band Camps from the age of six. He studied with Alan Dawson and Ed Soph, attending the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and Indiana University. He played with Kenton from 1972 to 1975, then from 1976 to 1978 with Maynard...
Full Bio
Open Letter, Peter Erskine
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  • $19.69
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, World
  • Released: Jul 1991

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