My Foolish Heart

Ralph Towner

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After critically-lauded projects with trumpeter Paolo Fresu (Chiaroscuro) and with fellow guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan (Travel Guide), Ralph Towner returns to solo guitar for My Foolish Heart. Whether on classical guitar or 12-string guitar Towner’s touch is immediately identifiable. Solo music is an important thread through his rich discography and this new album – recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in February 2016 and produced by Manfred Eicher – follows in the great tradition of Diary, Solo Concert, Ana, Anthem, and Time Line. It features finely-honed new compositions as well as a pair of tunes (“Shard” and “Rewind”) from the songbook of Oregon, a dedication to the late Paul Bley (“Blue As In Bley”) and a single standard – Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart” which Towner first came to love in Bill Evans’s interpretation.
Nach von der Kritik gefeierten Projekten mit dem Trompeter Paolo Fresu (Chiaroscuro) und den Gitarristenkollegen Wolfgang Muthspiel und Slava Grigoryan (Travel Guide) kehrt Ralph Towner für sein neues Album My Foolish Heart zum Solistendasein zurück. Ob an der klassischen oder einer 12-saitigen Gitarre, Towners Personalstil ist sofort zu erkennen. Soloaufnahmen bilden einen wichtigen roten Faden in Ralph Towners Diskografie, und so folgt dieses neue Album – das im Februar 2016 im Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano aufgenommen und von Manfred Eicher produziert wurde – der großen Tradition, die von den Aufnahmen Diary, Solo Concert, Ana, Anthem, und Time Line begründet wurde. Es enthält sowohl geschliffene neue Kompositionen als auch zwei Stücke aus dem Songbook von Oregon („Shard” and „Rewind”), ein von Towner geschriebenes musikalisches Gedenken an Paul Bley („Blue As In Bley“) und einen Standard – Victor Youngs „My Foolish Heart“, das Towner einst in Bill Evans‘ Interpretation lieben lernte.
Featured Artists Recorded

February 2016, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano

Original Release Date

03.02.2017

  • 1Pilgrim
    (Ralph Towner)
    04:31
  • 2I'll Sing to You
    (Ralph Towner)
    04:32
  • 3Saunter
    (Ralph Towner)
    05:01
  • 4My Foolish Heart
    (Ned Washington, Victor Young)
    03:51
  • 5Dolomiti Dance
    (Ralph Towner)
    04:24
  • 6Clarion Call
    (Ralph Towner)
    04:40
  • 7Two Poets
    (Ralph Towner)
    02:04
  • 8Shard
    (Ralph Towner)
    00:54
  • 9Ubi Sunt
    (Ralph Towner)
    01:20
  • 10Biding Time
    (Ralph Towner)
    01:29
  • 11Blue as in Bley
    (Ralph Towner)
    03:53
  • 12Rewind
    (Ralph Towner)
    03:43
In his dedication to the acoustic instrument, and his exploration of the borders of both classical and jazz, Ralph Towner is effectively the guitarist equivalent of Keith Jarrett: there’s a calm, reflective quality, allied to an intense involvement, about both players’ solo work, of which ‘My Foolish Heart’ may be Towner’s best since his sublime 1973 debut ‘Diary’.
Andy Gill, The Independent
 
The mood is beautifully contemplative and the pictures, even all in the mind, are never less than vivid. He makes positive use of space and quietude, occasionally keeping a rhythmic base by weaving around steady chords, and often spinning single-note streams into partita-like structures. A couple pieces here are rendered on steel twelve-string guitar, where its tinnier chiming (with picking and natural sustain somewhat evocative of Leo Kottke) makes a tangy tonal seasoning to complement the subtler twang of nylon. Nonetheless, it's still the classical guitar where he's arguably always been most at home. […] Meditative, lightly jaunty or anywhere in between, each part of ‘My Foolish Heart’ tumbles from the strings with eloquence and heart.
Geno Thackara, All About Jazz
 
Das kann er wie nur die wenigsten seiner Kollegen: in ein mehrstimmiges Solostück eine Improvisation einbauen, die sich frei schwingend - und auch swingend - über dem Thema und seinen Motiven erhebt. Er greift die musikalischen Gedanken auf, spinnt sie fort - und nimmt die Hörer mit. Das groovt dann auch so richtig - und wird eins mit Ralph Towners eigener Musiksprache. In zwölf Stücken kann man diesen US-amerikanischen Musiker hier hören. […] Zupackende Melodien, oft starke Rhythmen und sinnlich fesselnder Ausdruck. Dazu viel Gespür für Dynamik. Wer diesen Musiker einmal etwas ausführlicher gehört hat, wird ihn vermutlich immer gleich wieder erkennen. Und wird schnell das Gefühl haben, dass da einer hinterm Instrument sitzt, der von mitreißender Spiellust getrieben ist. Die springt über, hier, in diesem neuen Album von Ralph Towner. Einer mit Sinn fürs Schöne, fürs Kraftvolle - und nirgends nur Harmlos-Idyllische.
Roland Spiegel, BR Klassik
 
With producer Manfred Eicher at the helm, he favors the minimalism of simply playing his woody, acoustic classical and 12-string guitars into a microphone. Even so, there are moments here, like the foreboding ‘Clarion Call,’ in which Towner improbably sounds like two musicians combined in duet, his bass figures interwoven with his crystalline, moon-like, high-end phrases. […] the sad-eyed ’I'll Sing to You’ is a bittersweet ballad in which Towner sobs and sighs across his fretboard until landing on a repeated Spanish-flavored phrase that has the feel of someone staring into the dark horizon as they think on a lost love. Ultimately, it's Towner's immense gift for portraying that kind of romantic drama that makes ‘My Foolish Heart’ such an evocative listening experience.
Matt Collar, All Music
 
Ralph Towner hat mit seinen Gitarrenalben ‘Solo Concert’ und ‘Anthem’ so bezaubernde Aufnahmen für ECM gemacht, dass man keine Steigerung mehr erwartet hätte […] doch auch seine neueste Aufnahme ist von selten gehörter Intensität. Für den 76jährigen amerikanischen Musiker und Komponisten, der heute in Rom lebt, geht es  um Klänge, die Musiker wie Hörende an einen magischen Ort versetzen […] Mit seinem neuen Album bezieht Towner auch Stellung zu großen Musik-Erfindern wie den Pianisten Bill Evans und Paul Bley. Von ihren Schallplatten hat Towner einst alles abgehört, was ihm noch heute wichtig ist – jene Neugierde des Lernens hat ihn nie verlassen. Entstanden ist ein improvisatorisches Meisterwerk von höchster lyrischer und musikalischer Einfühlsamkeit.
Christian Bröcking, Berliner Zeitung
 
Mit wachem Verstand reflektiert der Gitarrist in seinem Alterswerk das Erlebte und Erfahrene. So ist mit Fingerspitzengefühl eine Aufnahme entstanden, die über den Tag hinaus klingen wird.
Georg Waßmuth, Südwestrundfunk
 
The project has as an underlying theme a warm tribute to the late great pianist Bill Evans, but is really a pretext for Towner to display his own dazzling virtuosity in a variety of musical settings and this he succeeds in accomplishing with aplomb. A folk feel is discernible on the opener, ‘Pilgrim’, and throughout the album, Towner delights in exploring the roots of different musical traditions, and on several pieces one can almost hear the nylon string guitar played flamenco style and there is both a finesse to and a freshness in the performances that is totally absorbing to the listener. […] An exemplary ECM recording from a label that is enjoying renewed vitality. Ralph Towner is at his absolute best here.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe
 
L’album ‘My Foolish Heart’, qui bénéficie, comme toujours chez ECM, d’une prise de son merveilleuse, offer onze compositions du guitarist en plus de la chanson titre. Un recital don’t on a plaisir à découvrier à la réécoute la profondeur usicale, quine se donne pas d’emblée, tant la discretion est ici rigeur.
Michel Contat, Télérama
 
Ein Mann im Dialog mit sich selbst,  ständig in unterschiedlichen inneren und äußeren Bewegungsmodi, ein andauerndes Durchdringen von Verweilen und Weitergehen, Erinnern und Vorausgehen im akustischen Klang. Schön, erhaben, groß!
Wolf Kampmann, Eclipsed
 
Towners Spiel klang nie entschlossener, seine Vision nie kraftvoller, seine Haltung nie positiver. Manchmal scheint es, als hätte er eine ganze Band in seine Gitarre gepackt, ein interaktives, globales, ja fröhliches Ensemble […] Dieses Album ist jetzt schon ein Klassiker.
Hans-Jürgen Schaal, Jazzthing
 
Difficult to believe that this is Towner's first solo album for a decade, with previous albums from his solo discography, such as ‘Solo Concert’, ‘Ana’, ‘Anthem’, and ‘Time Line’, all remaining so fresh and current that the passing of time can be deceptive. It is therefore much to the guitarist's credit that he is able to push past his former glories and to develop and refine his solo playing so that he is continuing to move his music on and a delight us a new, however familiar with his playing we may feel we are.
It is this element to surprise within such a well defined idiom that makes this album such a delight. The unmistakable and distinctive touch on the strings is undiminished,  as is the ability to bring fresh ideas into play, with a dogged determination not to fall back on preconceived patterns or licks. Whether tackling familiar standards (he plays at least one standard on nearly all of his solo outings to date), or revisiting material from his past and reworking them into his solo performances there is a sense of  freshness and discovery in the music that is conceived by this master musician.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views
 
Plus que jamais, ‘My Foolish Heart’ rend Ralph Towner définitivement rare et inclassable, car il y a dans ce nouvel opus la quintessence d’une voix qui dépasse sensiblement  la seule notion de guitare […] Toute autant source  d’ émoi que de mystère, ells nous touchent  aussi bien au corps qu’ à l’esprit. Elles s’apprécient  et se dévoilent encore et encore au fil  des écoutes,  emplies de l’infinie et authentique richesse d’un musicien au sommet de son art. Magnfique.
Jean-Pierre Vidal, Jazz Magazine
 
Ralph Towner’s return to solo-guitar is a case for celebration. His completely original approach to playing classical and 12-string guitar combines his wonderfully relaxed, conversational flow of melodic statements and improvisations with a harmonic logic that is emotionally rewarding yet startling in its virtuosity, like watching a monarch butterfly dancing its ways through a sun-dappled garden.
John Swenson, Stereophile
My Foolish Heart is the latest solo album by master guitarist Ralph Towner, recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in February 2016, and produced by Manfred Eicher. Solo music is an important thread through Towner’s rich discography. Diary was the title he gave to his first ECM solo album back in 1973 and each of his solo albums since then – the list includes Solo Concert, Ana, Anthem, and Time Line - has had a special autobiographical, diary-like character. The solo music is where one can see most clearly the inspirational strands informing Towner’s music. He alludes to this in the performer’s note introducing the new album, his first solo disc in a decade:
 
“‘My Foolish Heart’, the title song of this album had an immeasurable impact on my musical life, as it did with many of my colleagues in the world of jazz and improvisation. The seminal version, played by Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian set me on a course to try to attain the magic of this trio in my own attempts to play the piano, and later, on the classical guitar which became my principal instrument. I needed to know how it felt to inhabit such a reverent musical space. So, many years later, I’ve decided to pay a visit to this song and include it among a variety of my own pieces. I hope I’ve continued to use the inspiration I gained from that first encounter in all the music I play.”
 
The challenge, as Towner once spelled it out “was to develop the idea of embracing the interaction of a small group on the guitar itself.” Three lines of influence converged in his work: Evans’s conception of jazz, Brazilian music – a major inspiration for Towner in the 1960s - and classical guitar. “Over the years I kept on adapting each of these in my own way. I abstracted them and modified them until the sources were no longer recognisable, and I’d arrived almost without noticing it in an idiom of my own.” The Towner idiom was further extended with the 12-string guitar, on which experiments with different tunings led to evocative sonorities and atmospheres. On the new album, the 12-string is the vehicle for the mysterious “Clarion Call”, as well as the hovering miniature “Biding Time”.
 
Amongst other striking pieces, “Blue as in Bley”, is a soulful tribute to Paul Bley, who had died a month before the session. Whether on classical guitar or 12-string guitar, Towner’s touch is immediately identifiable. As fellow guitarist Scott Nygaard has noted, “No one else plays guitar like Ralph Towner, And while his compositions often sound ‘classical’ (combining a fondness for Baroque voice leading, Stravinskian harmonies, and odd time signatures with his own strong sense of melody) that’s primarily because each piece grows organically and gracefully from an initial idea.” Towner’s feeling for form has been a consistent strength, as two older compositions - “Shard” and “Rewind”, both from the early repertoire of Oregon – confirm here.
A key ECM recording artist for 44 years, Ralph Towner was born into a musical family in Washington in 1940. He began playing piano at age 5, followed by trumpet two years later. He launched his jazz career as a Bill Evans-inspired pianist, then travelled to Vienna to study classical guitar with Karl Scheit, the renowned Austrian guitarist, lutenist and teacher. In New York City in the late 1960s, he freelanced on both piano and guitar, before co-founding the band Oregon in 1970, with Collin Walcott, Glenn Moore and Paul McCandless – all of whom would appear on his ECM debut, Trios/Solos, in 1972. Towner’s recordings for ECM have included solo albums, duo projects (with John Abercrombie, Gary Peacock, Gary Burton and Paolo Fresu), bands under his direction (including Solstice with Jan Garbarek, Eberhard Weber, Jon Christensen) and discs with Oregon. Towner has also contributed to outstanding albums by Keith Jarrett (In The Light), Jan Garbarek (Dis), Kenny Wheeler(Deer Wan) and Egberto Gismonti (Sol do Meio Dia).
 
In the last few years activities have included many concerts with Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, their album Chiaroscuro garnering much positive press along the way (“Lushly resonant guitar and stately trumpet, a masterful match of color and texture” – The Village Voice). Another important association is with the guitar trio with Austria’s Wolfgang Muthspiel and Kazakhstan-born Australian player Slava Grigoryan. “Three guitarists from three different continents with three very different disciplines unite for this breathtakingly beautiful trio outing,” wrote Down Beat of the album Travel Guide.