Monday, April 9, 2018

Ralph Towner - 1974-03-12 - Postaula, Bremen, Germany

From the NDR Archives...

Is Ralph Towner jazz? He doesn't make music that swings, and even in a full band context (Oregon, for example), calling them jazz seems to take the label to a breaking point.

Regardless, I like Towner's playing a lot. When he plays guitar, he makes it sound like a thousand instruments, alternating between crashing chords and lightning-fast runs up and down the fretboard. I don't think it's too unfair to compare him to John McLaughlin, although I'd argue Towner's a more atmospheric player, in that his playing fills the room with emotion and feeling; McLaughlin's as impersonal as a machine gun at times.

This set was recorded live in 1974, I believe by NDR. Or perhaps Radio Bremen? I'm not sure, and if I spoke German I could probably look it up. What that means for you, is the sound is crystal-clear, sounding like you're right in front of his guitar (or, for "Rainmaker," his piano). He takes standards and twists them on their head (wonder what Mingus made of his "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat",) while originals are cast in a new light: "Nimbus" is all tension and a cloud of notes, while "Rainmaker" shows off his underrated piano skills.

So: is Ralph Towner jazz? My answer: does it really matter when the music's so good?

2 comments:

M. Milner said...

Towner '74: https://workupload.com/file/ypswBj5

Scraps said...

Thank you!