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Everybody Digs Ralph Towner

The veteran guitarist on solo performance, Bill Evans and Oregon

Ralph Towner (photo by Caterina Di Perri/courtesy of ECM Records)
Ralph Towner (photo by Caterina Di Perri/courtesy of ECM Records)

If you closed your eyes while listening to the music emanating from the stage of New York’s Jazz Standard in mid-February, you could be forgiven for thinking it was being created by more than one person. Ralph Towner’s fingerpicked guitar odysseys project an orchestral grandness at times, a pianistic wholeness. All at once, he can offer a baroque stateliness, percussive, odd-meter rhythms and eloquent melodic runs that might disappear within seconds or tell an in-depth story. There’s a lot of music pouring out of that lone guitar.

Not surprisingly, Towner learned to play piano before he ever picked up a guitar, and it’s a pianist, Bill Evans, who is the object of Towner’s adoration in the liner notes for his latest ECM album. Towner was so inspired by the classic Evans Trio’s version of the standard “My Foolish Heart”—recorded at the Village Vanguard in 1961 and released on the seminal Waltz for Debby—that he made it the album’s title track and only non-original piece.

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