Scott68 | Columbus, Ohio United States | 07/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can hear sound his slowly changing, I also hear more atonality then before. I can hear him stretching for a new sound on this recording, I can tell he must have been searching for something new and he found it.
His use of augmented and suspended intervals continue to give that mysterious floating sound, a style I fell in love with (as did Debussy, Bill Evans and Paul Bley). I consider this the most modern of all music - classical mixed with jazz, counterpoint with improv.
I think of Mr Towner as the epitomy of the ecm sound the same way Paul Bley is on piano, they have perfected this wonderfully modern and impressionistic sound and refined it into a enigmatic mystery, an enigma wrapped inside of a riddle much the way the heart is when it finds love, undefinable but somehow undenliably beautiful and irresistably alluring with desire and passion.
This recording is equal to any he has ever done, I rank this among his finest along with Ana, Open Letter, Diary, and Solo Concert. I seem to prefer this to Anthem.
What we have here is a real full blown composer - artist who keeps on growing and never compromises in any way. Did you know he has a degree in composition? Hey Ralph keep on growing, and will continue to listen.
The only thing missing here is a band, in which case you want to start buying Oregon recordings instead of his solo work."
Great music, but beware the reverb of doom
Bernard | 09/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the latest masterful work of colour and complexity from one of THE greatest guitarist/composers of our time, and probably any other time. Time Line is the third straight solo guitar album from Ralph Towner (the Oregon album, etc. notwithstanding), and his great talents have not diminished one iota. He is an outstanding composer, and an amazing guitarist. Both these gifts are on full display here in this highly creative and deeply accomplished work.
His compositions on this album are in turn sweet and lilting, reflective, melodic, dissonant, and sometimes spicy. They are always interesting, sometimes fantastic. There are some great tunes here, and some seriously great guitar craft; great enough to add interest even on those few less-appealing explorations.
What's new? Well, the now regular improvised short pieces are this time played on the nylon-strung guitar, unlike other recent recordings where they were done on the 12-string. Of course, the compositions on this album are new as well. (There are two standards also.) How does he write so much great music?! Mind you, some of these pieces may only be of interest to guitar aficionados, or those interested in angular, more abstract modern music - but then, there are a few of us aren't there!?
Despite such a big upside, there is a small downside. Also new are the setting and the engineer, and this turns out to be a disappointing factor for me. While some have enjoyed the sound and even praised the album's overall vibe, at times the recording to me feels quite distant and cold. Despite the guitar being the centre of attention, the anticipated warmth and intimacy of the instrument is missing. This is acoustic guitar we're talking about! Yet Ralph's guitar on this album seems to lack presence, and may in fact need CPR after nearly drowning in reverberation! I am a huge fan of several ECM artists and love the recordings they make, but on this occasion I find myself wishing I were in the tropics.
On some tracks, notably the first, the sound of the guitarist sucking in short breaths through his nose was a startling intrusion into my listening experience! Ralph is on record regarding the notoriously difficult instrument that is the guitar, and like other ECM recordings this is a live performance - no endless takes and overdubbing here. Yet even I find this noisy intrusion hard to get `round. Keith Jarrett's infamous whining doesn't bother me at all, and yet here we have Ralph's nostrils making unwelcome percussive additions to the recording! Intimate, yes, but not the sort we're after methinks!
Don't hate me, but I also feel the programming could have been better. At times there are pieces in the same key following each other, which doesn't do justice to either Ralph or the music. Then there's the fact that the two standards are at the very end, sandwiching an abstract piece. Not quite ideal for mine. Perhaps I'll hit the CD player's `shuffle' function for this one.
These things are, of course, highly subjective, and are just things I personally felt the need to mention. Ralph's masterful performances easily save the day; and more than that, show a great musician at the height of his powers. Highly recommended, but dress warmly. "
Nothing is missing
D. J. Sapen | 06/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To me, this is the best of the solo guitar sets by Towner since "Solo Concert". To my ears, he hits a cool balance of improvisational fluency, attention to form and flow and the one-man-trio feel he attributes to Bill Evans. Really beautiful, with a live, spacious sound accurately capturing the resonant hall in which it was recorded.
He doesn't seem to age, except in the best sense. The material is distinct, fresh and recognizably what I have come to love in Towner's music. Buy it."
+ 1/2 stars...Wonderful Album by a Gifted Guitarist
Steve Vrana | Aurora, NE | 12/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is Ralph Towner's 21st ECM album (not counting his albums with Oregon) and his first since 2000's ANTHEM. Towner, who was 65 when this was recorded, is a technical master of the classical and 12-string guitars. But don't let the mastery of his instrument lead you to think these are strictly clinical exercises in form and style. These twelve--mostly original--tracks are both warm and personal. This is partly due to the venue: The entire album was recorded in an Austrian monestary.
At the ECM website, Towner says, "It was a very different experience from my studio recordings. I'm playing without headphones and projecting the music into this very large space, very conscious of the natural reverberation of the church, and working with that, as part of the total sound."
The two non-originals on the album are standards closely associated with Bill Evans: Harold Arlen's "Come Rain or Come Shine" and George Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now," the latter featuring Towner's impeccable 12-sting playing. "Freeze Frame" is the only other song that features 12-string guitar.
The accompanying 16-page booklet is woefully lacking in any detailed information on the recording--one page of tracklisting snd song length, and another page of production credits. The rest consists of photos--some of Towner, others similar to the cover shot. It would have been nice to include the personal anecdotes of each song that can be found at the ECM website. [For example, Towner makes this observation of "Oleander Etude": "In Sicily, where I lived for several years, they plant flowers along the highway, and oleander is particularly plentiful there. So when you're driving, you have all these beautiful flowers whizzing by you, all these flashes of colour. The rapid pace of this piece made me recall this image." For me, these insights add to the enjoyment of the songs.]
I've been a fan of Towner since his early days with Oregon on Vanguard. If you enjoy acoustic jazz guitar, you will find much to enjoy here. [Running Time - 43:54] HIGHLY RECOMMENDED"
Ralph Towner is the Keith Jarrett of the guitar
Jazzcat | Genoa, Italy Italy | 11/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I see Ralph Towner as the most creative and original musician the guitar has expressed since, .. I don't know... The only names that can match Ralph's originality among the most "recent" cats in my opinion are Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Joe Diorio ... and that's it. They're very different musicians from each other but this is to say that Ralph is really one of the most unique and creative voices of the guitar nowadays. And comparing Ralph to Keith Jarrett is to me the rightest way to look at him and his music. He really try to be creative and to strecht out the limits of his instrument (the classical guitar mainly .. the 12 strings guitar occasionally). In the case of the classical guitar the limits are even harder to break. But Ralph does this on every album. He, like Keith Jarrett and few other musicians (Garbarek, Stanko etc) is the epitome of the ECM philosophy and sound. He is his own jazz. I especially love his classical guitar solo albums versus his more orchestrated efforts. Ralph's sound is fabolous and it deserves to be listened alone. And Ralph's guitar really doesn't need any other instrument. It is an orchestra in itself. In Time Line there is sure some natural reverb from the peculiar enviroment they choose for this recording (as a lot of people told you before me) but its not something really annoying. Believe me. As any other ECM album it is recorded very very well. State of the art. I love the atmosphere. About the music I can say that the compositions are all from Ralph's pen apart from a couple of standards that in Ralph's hands become something almost never heard before ... Talking about the overall artistic quality. This one is on the same level of the masterpiece "Anthem". And its a lot. How many musicians could release a masterpiece after another like Ralph does?"