Ralph Towner is great man. Great in everything: composer, improviser, multi-instrumentalist, pianist, guitarist, band leader. Just think about that legendary group called Orengon which anticipated that at least twenty years, the fashion of the music crossover, a versatile group, with a sound immediately recognizable, ranged between genders, targeted mainly on a melodic, enjoyable and maturefolk-jazz, unhappily and briefly described by some as “world music” and “new age”, free improvisation and a great deal of melodic and percussive textures. The classical guitar Towner was always one of leading voice of the group, leaving an indelible imprint on the collective sound, and giving to music lovers a new context in which to take advantage of the sounds of a classical guitar.
The activity of Towner, however, not remained confined within Oregon, from 1972 he began to affect a series of records for the ECM label in Monaco, who gave refuge to a great grout of indipendent musical talents.
“Solstice” ’74 is an early example of this collaboration (and one of the best albums ever of his vast discography), and is a perfect representation of the now often-nominated ECM style, a sound in wich space, dynamics and reverb become protagonists.
In this chapter of his musical career Towner is accompanied by other ECM people: Jan Garbarek, one of the few (along with Lee Konitz and Wahyne Shorte) to propose a sound of tenor sax away from John Coltrane, Eberhard Weber on cello and bass characterized by the mellow sound and reverb (one of the few alternatives to Jaco Pastorius’ brand) and polyrhythmic drummer Jon Christensen already a permanent member of the European quartet of Keith Jarrett.
The compositions are all of excellent quality with great mood and atmosphere. From the first track “Oceanus”, fascinating and far-reaching, the surreal “Visitation?”, And the fantastic funky groove on “Piscean Dreams”. The music does not differ radically from the one proposed by Oregon, a sign for style of Towner, maintaining that delicate balance between exotic and apparent deviations from the traditional lines and harmonies.
An excellent start to want to begin exploring the career of this great multi-instrumentalist.