November 1997

Ralph Towner
Solo Guitar
ECM Records

A musician's musician, Towner is capable of playing many roles: multi-instrumentalist, serious composer for nearly all mediums and refined ensemble member. His latest CD focuses on his own compositions for classical and 12-string guitar, with the results ranging from light and lyrical to more ambitious.

On the first half of the album, Towner plays works for nylon-string guitar. "The Reluctant Bride" is a relatively slow, melodic waltz that is tonal in quality and utilizes fairly conventional harmonies, while "Joyful Departure" features pedals, moving chords, and contrasting chromaticism. Almost seven minutes long, "Les Douzilles," the album's most extended work, sounds almost improvisational in nature as it actively moves from its recurring main section to a variety of episodes. The second half of the album is devoted to "Seven Pieces For Twelve Strings," primarily a series of adventurous miniatures. The opening movement, "Between The Clouds" is a kind of "sound piece" with chime-like harmonics. With its unusual, sometimes airy harmonies, "Child On The Porch" dramatically contrasts with the rhythmically rollicking "Carib Crib (1)," whose pizzicato passages and punctuating harmonics help it infectiously groove. "Sage Brush Rider," the suite's most extended segment, ends things on a somewhat humorous note with occasional country references framed by jazz-like rhythmic episodes.

Broad in scope and displaying a wide range of influences, Solo Guitar offers an intimate look into the musical world of one of the guitar's most unique figures.

Originally published in November 1997
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