on 4 November 2013
One of my favourite personal discoveries this year has been the music of Ralph Towner. He's been a master of melody and atmosphere for the last 40 years, and I was happy to discover that a new album, with two other guitarists who I was unfamiliar with, was to be released in October.
What I wasn't expecting was the surprise of just how wonderfully spellbinding each track on this album would be, and that it would be catapulted straight into my top 10 ECM albums, alongside the lofty company of The Köln Concert, Bright Size Life and Towner's own Solo Concert. The three guitars here blend perfectly, and through highlighting each player at different times gives the album so much variety that, alongside all the gorgeous tunes, means that you'll want to listen to this over and over again. Hard to pick a favourite, but The Henrysons opens the album with a slowly unfolding melody that captivates you right away, and Duende was also a standout on early listens.
Unreservedly recommended! Finally, a quick word about the CD itself; I'd be interested to know if anyone else has this little oddity. Instead of the usual blue 'ECM' logo above the artists' names and album title, there's just a thin blue line which I'm used to seeing on New Series releases, underneath the New Series words - but there's no wording at all on this disc, just the blue line. Is this just an interesting misprint, or are other ECM discs starting to be released this way?
on 1 May 2014
From the ultra-simple background rhythm of the first piece, once W. Muthspiels's electric guitar arrives, in come the shades of Pat Metheny at his non-virtuosic best. Actually - with the basic Towner mentality - _that_ dominates much of this recording.
The pieces alternate of Towner to Muthspiel, but as much there is a general compositional distinction between the two, the whole mood is very unified.
Towner gets the most solo space and dominates the recording, but I hear so many shades of the aforementioned P. Metheny [hear Towner's 'The Prowler' from 'Anthem' / ECM 2001 and compare it with 'Midwestern Nights Dream' from Metheny / ECM 1976] here that it must be some kind of a 'sign of the times', I think. We can't think of Towner, the leader of the project, being nearly as popular as Metheny, these days, can we? This is not to say there is an intentional imitation, just an influence of some kind. Towner still sounds like himself, its just the general feeling and Muthspiel's style.
Notable is also Muthspiel's very ECM-like _singing_ [in 'Amarone Trio'], because it brings beautiful and unique shades and balance to the whole work. The most lively piece on the record is likewise W. M.'s 'Nico und Mithra', a R. T. composition 'Travel Guide' being another of rhythmic liveliness, both in composition and performance. Otherwise the mood is rather calm yet highly expressive.
To sum: this recording consists of somewhat Metheny-sounding composition/performances from Towner & Muthspiel, with S. Grigoryan mostly comping. The whole of the music is in a personal way like a guitar trio answer to the mood of P. M.'s first solo record 'Bright Size Life'. As much as this is a group of Ralph Towner domination, the combined result sounds more like a mysterious reference to this other personality than a work of "pure" / historic Towner-style.
Conclusion: recommended for ones who could like highly expressive, "impressionistic", [partly] Metheny-influenced, acoustic/electro-acoustic, mostly non-virtuosic guitar trio music.