"Time Line" by Ralph Towner on iTunes

16 Songs

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5

12 Ratings

Greatness

Schmitty 3,

This is a great CD full of great music by the musical legend Ralph Towner.. Buy it.. It's worth every penny...

Timeless on the Timeline

musiciew,

Ralph Towner is the single most important solo improvising guitarist on the international scene. For readers who may not be completely familiar with his work, Towner is a composer and jazz pianist who also trained on the classical guitar to develop at once, a unique pianistic approach on the guitar, and also something quite new to guitar textures on the 12-string guitar - diverse sounds and textures which are sometimes almost Eastern, or of the essence of a blues music - the earliest expressions of improvised american music, or strangely, very much in the manner of the European avant garde. Towner is a well-versed musician who understands the traditions of jazz and popular song, and also classical music, without compromise. Improvising seamlessly from these traditions he has created both a wholly new kind of music on one hand, and also a very personal approach to existing style. Immediately recognizable, one distinction of Towner's and apparent on this disc is the sound of an 'artistic weight' unrealized by very few other guitarists improvising these days. This characteristic is not only to be found in the more serious pieces where the harmonic language and texture of voices is complex but also in the simpler pieces where he evokes a strangely sophisticated sense of americana. Listen to cuts three and five. A cosmopolitan poet of the guitar he has recorded here a varied set of pieces, some of which are stylistically aligned with the traditions of European post-romantic music, a characteristic of his in this period. We also find virtuosically played pieces which are more like etudes composed for the classical guitar. and here Towner pronounces the difference between 'style' and 'idea' - his compositions and improvisations are always based in the world of idea, style being some result of the process. This is exemplified most in his 'Five Glimpes'. Whereas in the ballads his characteristic idioms are apparent, never does he play from the point of view of 'style'. The music on this disc seems to come from disparate places simultaneously and from different points in time, creating Towner's unusual timeline of sound and narrative. As for the standard 'Come Rain or Come Shine', his modal intro gives way to a completely swinging performance, and as is usually written about his standards playing, it seems inspired by Bill Evans - though Towner long ago found his original voice playing standards on the guitar. He swings in the deepest of ways with incredible time and feel, not in the often awkward way which many jazz guitarists do - setting themselves apart from the jazz mainstream. Towner on the other hand, is one of the only jazz guitarists who can be spoken of in the same breath as the few other great improvisors of his generation - much in the same way that Julian Bream and few others transcended the insular world of 'classical guitar' and played on a par with other great classical artists. One wishes that Towner would consider recording a disc of standards, played in a way that only he can. His playing of Gershwin's 'My Man's Gone Now' brings a fresh breath to standards playing not only because he plays the tune on the twelve-string guitar but because he has amplified his own idiosyncrasies to a point here that the tune almost seems like an original of his - a kind of personal approach to a standard which seems nearly impossible to do in these days of stylized and almost amateurish artistic approaches. A very special piece on this disc is 'Turning of the Leaves' where many of the primary aspects of his lyrical compositional style and guitaristic approach come together to create one of his most beautiful and romantic pieces. On this recording he gives us yet again not only magical music but something greater than a glimpse of his personal musical timeline - rather a view of a very particular world of beauty and truth.

About Ralph Towner

One of the founders of Oregon, Ralph Towner is one of the few modern jazz musicians to specialize in acoustic guitar. His playing often stretches beyond the boundaries of conventional jazz into world music and is quite distinctive. He started playing piano when he was three and trumpet at five, performing in a dance band when he was 13. Towner studied classical guitar in Vienna and played with classical chamber groups in the mid-'60s.

After moving to New York in 1969, Towner worked with Jimmy Garrison, Jeremy Steig, and Paul Winter's Winter Consort (1970-1971). In the latter group, Towner first met up with Collin Walcott, Glen Moore, and Paul McCandless, and in 1971 they broke away to form Oregon, a highly versatile group ranging from jazz and free improvisations to folk music. Towner (who guested with Weather Report in 1971 and played with Gary Burton a bit during 1974-1975) performed and recorded with Oregon extensively in the years after the group's formation, in addition to recording as a leader and with many other artists on the ECM label.

While on tour in 2003 with guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, Towner encountered Kazakhstan classical guitarist Slava Grigoryan, who suggested a collaboration. Towner assembled a tour in 2005, which presented each man as a soloist, in duets, and in trios. They began to play and tour together as a "band" whenever time would permit. The group's progress was first documented on From a Dream, issued on Muthspiel's Material label. Towner brought the project to ECM in 2012. The trio recorded in Lugano, Switzerland with producer Manfred Eicher, and released Travel Guide in the fall of 2013. Three years later, Towner joined Argentine saxophonist Javier Girotto and the ensemble Aires Tango for Duende. In 2017, Towner returned to the solo guitar format for My Foolish Heart on ECM. ~ Scott Yanow

  • ORIGIN
    Chehalis, WA
  • BORN
    Mar 1, 1940

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