Beauty, mystery and a lesson in what's important in music
D. J. Sapen | 04/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps the quintessential Towner solo guitar album - though fans of Ana and Solo Concert may disagree - this features some of the most virtuosic playing and heartfelt music of his career. It has revealed surprises and new delights with repeated listening. More varied in spirit and dynamic than the others, with dazzling finger style runs and unique, heartfelt melodies and voicings, age has been more than kind to this artist - without losing what has been essentially his voice, he has grown and even developed in mastery of the instument. And for those who refer to this as "cerebral" music - I must say this is precisely the opposite - aesthetic, felt to the sublest nuance and requiring thought FROM the LISTENER to hear how he has, in his own words, brought the whole piano trio to the guitar - perhaps the least cerebral, though most inward and inviting, solo instrumental work crossing genres one is likely to find. A gem."
Another Excellent Recording, but....
Phasedin | New Jersey | 04/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just to echo much of what the other reviews here have already written: this is easily a 5-star recording.
I've been buying all of Towner's works (solo and with Oregon) since the late 70's and even have many of his old recordings on vinyl and CD both.
Perhaps it's because i'm used to Towner's sometimes "difficult" original works, i'm not sure, but this one seems allot more accessible than some of his other works. No, it's surely not simple Pat Metheny sing along type writing or playing we have here, but this one seems a bit easier than perhaps some others for the outsider to appreaciate, at least in terms of solo (live, no overdubs) guitar music. However, I still think the uninitiated would do better to try a more group oriented project (perhaps Oregon's "Winter Light", or Towners "Solstice").
Anyway, this is excellent, if very intimate. It seems to me to be totally impossible to listen to this unless the listner is alone and preferably in a quiet place (like home in a big comfy reclining chair or in bed-which is where I always listen).
But, I have to say, after several recordings like this I sure do wish Towner next time would take advantage of the studio and the fact that he also is an excellent keyboard player as well as playing french horn and even some hand percussion on occaision, like his solo masterpiece from the early 80's "Blue Sun".
I purchased "Blue Sun" the week it originally came out (I believe around 1982). Even though I already had close to probably 20 Towner recordings at that point, I could tell it would be a favorite of mine. And it still is my very favorite Towner recording. I'm still waiting for him to follow up that one, but it's been a lobg time now. I hope Towner hasn't lost interest in the elctronic keyboards, because he really does possess an incredible mind for mixing his acoustic and classical guitars and various other acoustic instruments in with those electronics and i'm getting tired of waiting for over two decades now for a follow up.. Ralph, Please!!!!"
The Essential Towner
Marius Cipolla | 09/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ralph Towner can be a difficult artist to approach - often introverted, highly improvisational and complex - and solo guitar collections are somewhat of a specialty area in any case, so this album is perhaps not for everybody. It is, however, one of Towner's crowning achievements and one of the great solo guitar works of our times.
Compared to guitarists like Pat Metheny, whose music seems firmly rooted in accessible jazz or rock traditions, Towner can be hard to get a handle on. The currents that merge in his strange and beautiful playing range from to Maurice Ravel to Charlie Mingus. Older listeners will recall the ethereal sound of his 1970's group, Solstice, and the recordings he made with Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek, as some of the most abstract and exploratory jazz of the period. Reviewers often found themselves puzzled as to what exactly to say about such music, and it is not for every listener.
This solo album showcases Towner's matured compositional talent, and presents a succession of (for Towner) astonishingly rounded and accessible pieces. It opens with two glorious, accomplished anthems which will probably end up in the concert repertoire of many classical guitarists.
"Solitary Woman," for 12-string, is a majestic progression like a stately dance, with a haunting, recurring theme of ascending and descending chords. Hard not to see it as a defining moment in the development of solo guitar music.
"Anthem," for nylon string guitar, harks back to the 19th Century, with Spanish influences (Sor or Tarrega). Towner performs the virtuoso miracle of making six little nylon strings sound like an orchestra, and one wonders whether this piece won't end up being scored and performed by orchestral or jazz groups.
The next fifteen pieces, varying in length from a few moments to five minutes, include tributes to some of Towner's inspirations (Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," and Mingus's "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat"), two suites (the brooding "Comets" for nylon guitar and some singing "Comments" for 12-string) and some of Towner's best solo pieces (the bouncy "Raffish," an enchanting reverie called "Very Late" and a virtuoso display of guitar fireworks called "The Prowler," where Towner's third and fourth fingers on the bottom strings resolutely stalk his first and second fingers on the top strings.)
Little needs to be said about Towner's virtuosity; he is a dazzlingly creative player.
This is a wonderful recording which will repay many re-listenings and displays a great modern guitarist at the top of his form. If you only buy one Ralph Towner album, I recommend you buy this one.