Time Line

Ralph Towner

CD18,90 out of print
Featured Artists Recorded

September 2005, Propstei St. Gerold

Original Release Date


  • 1The Pendant
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 2Oleander Etude
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 3Always By Your Side
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 4The Hollows
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 5Anniversary Song
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 6If
    (Ralph Towner)
  • Five Glimpses
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 7I01:01
  • 8II00:47
  • 9III00:50
  • 10IV00:49
  • 11V00:25
  • 12The Lizards Of Eraclea
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 13Turning Of The Leaves
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 14Come Rain Or Come Shine
    (Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen)
  • 15Freeze Frame
    (Ralph Towner)
  • 16My Man's Gone Now
    (Du Bose Heyward, Ira Gershwin, George Gershwin)
Stereoplay, Die Audiophile
Musica Jazz, Consigliato
Mr. Towner has perfected a solo-guitar style of exceptional fullness and warmth; throughout his long tenure on the ECM label, and with the world-fusion ensemble Oregon, he has applied his pristine technique to every kind of malleable purpose. Time Line is one of his finest achievements, partly because it feels so personal. Each of Mr. Towner’s compositions offers a slightly different perspective on his orchestral touch… The only standards are a pair associated with Mr. Towner’s hero Bill Evans, the pianist who serves here as a patron saint of meditative graces.
Nate Chinen, The New York Times
More than any other contemporary jazz guitarist, Towner is the absolute master of establishing a particular mood or atmosphere with a mere gesture. In his hands the guitar acts like a prism, dispersing a myriad of timbres and endless inflections, all filtered through his ultra-refined expressivity. … Acoustically, texturally, dramatically, in any number of ways this is an outstanding addition to the Towner discography.
Peter Quinn, Jazzwise
Towner is a technical master; he might seem becalmed to some, but his tantalising musical storytelling is full of rich life. .. The sound sings; the pieces are chosen for variety and compellingly developed, and there’s much more improvisation than Towner’s gracefulness implies. … One for all kinds of guitar fans.
John Fordham, The Guardian
A mix of through composed pieces, improvisations and a couple of standards, it’s a reminder of a singular talent. Towner’s use of 12 string and classical guitars is pretty much unique in jazz. … Towner’s most discernable influence is probably Bill Evans, and there’s something of the pianist’s unsentimental, impressionistic melancholia in these pieces. But there’s muscle too… In short, beautiful music from a master of the guitar.
Peter Marsh, BBC Music Interactive
Gitarrenpoesie mit unverwechselbarem Persönlichkeitszauber. Einfallsfülle en detail.
Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Frankfurter Rundschau
“Eine Welt für sich” nannte ein französischer Musikkritiker jüngst den Amerikaner Ralph Towner. Der in Rom lebende Gitarrist zählt heute unbestritten zu den großen Jazzmusikern, der die Grenzen des Jazz überschreitet. Die zwischen U- und E-Musik führt er ohnehin ad absurdum. Er ist ein Klangmaler, der weiß, dass weniger mehr ist. ... Es ist kein Wagnis, zu behaupten: Diese Aufnahme zählt nicht nur zu Towners besten in seiner langen Karriere, sondern zu den berückendsten und subtilsten in der zeitgenössischen Musik.
Alexander Kluy, Rheinischer Merkur
Mit „Come Rain Or Come Shine“ und „My Man’s Gone Now“ hatte Towner zwei Kompositionen mit im Gepäck, die Evans ganz besonders am Herzen lagen. Und wie Towner hier all seine Könnerschaft in Technik und Ausdruck aufbietet, um diese Edelsteine mit der sechssaitig-klassischen sowie der stahlbesaiteten Gitarre zum Schwingen und zum Leuchten zu bringen, ist einmal mehr Balsam für alle Gemüter und Ohren. Den Rest des Albums erfüllt Towner aber mit einem ebenso vollendeten Glück. Allein schon, weil Towner all die Nuancen in der Anschlagskultur beherrscht, die man eigentlich nur von den großen klassischen Meistern wie Julian Bream gewohnt ist. Towner schafft es damit mal wieder, in bester Harmonie mit sich und der Welt Lieder ohne Worte aus seinem Instrument zu zaubern, die so raffiniert wie klangschön, so mediterran beseelt wie federleicht verspielt sind.
Guido Fischer, Jazzthetik
Ralph Towner est un monde à lui tout seul. Cela vaut mieux, d’ailleurs, lorsque l’on décide d’enregistrer fréquemment en solo. Instrument polyphonique, la guitare classique lui permet de jouer simultanément , la mélodie, l’accompagnement et la basse. Sa grande maîtrise du son et du jeu lui permet de ciseler de belles mélodie. Mais le jazz est là, dans l’esprit totalement libre de cet instrumentiste hors norme qui continue à se moquer de genres.
Renaud Czarnes, Jazzman
Time Line, a Ralph Towner solo recording in the tradition of such well-loved albums as Diary, Solo Concert, Ana and Anthem, sounds strikingly different from its predecessors. The recording was made in September 2005 in the church of the Austrian mountain monastery of St Gerold, and Towner’s classical and 12-string guitars sing beautifully in this spacious acoustic setting.

“It was a very different experience from my studio recordings”, Towner says. “I’m playing without headphones and projecting the music into this very large space, very conscious of the natural reverberation of the church, and working with that, as part of the total sound.”

Ralph Towner, who began recording for ECM in 1972, views Time Line as “an album that’s really about my path with the guitar, aspects of this long journey that is still developing, looking backwards and forwards.”

The tracks:

“The Pendant”: “I always title all my pieces long after I’ve written them, and then they begin to stir associations in the mind. ‘The Pendant’ has a slightly nostalgic quality. I visualised an older person finding an object in a drawer and reflecting on what this might once have meant...”

“Oleander Etude”: In Sicily, where I lived for several years, they plant flowers along the highway, and oleander is particularly plentiful there. So when you’re driving, you have all these beautiful flowers whizzing by you, all these flashes of colour. The rapid pace of this piece made me recall this image.”

“Always by Your Side”: “This is a piece I originally wrote a long time ago, for a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – where it didn’t fit in at all. In retrospect, it sounds more like it should have been for an off-Broadway play. It’s a ballad with a very songlike quality, as if you were singing to someone. I like to play it with a free time feeling.”

“The Hollows”: “There’s no improvisation at all in this. It’s a strictly written ‘classical’ piece with an interesting harmonic concept to it. The music suggested a rather mysterious place, hence ‘The Hollows’.”

“Anniversary Song”: “A piece with a personal meaning for me, written in Catania on Sicily’s eastern coast, as an anniversary present for my wife (actress Mariella Lo Sardo), who was on tour there with a play.”

“If”: “This has an almost syllogistic feel to it. It seems to fall into phrases like ‘If it is the case that such and such, then it also follows that...’ A question-and-answer piece that moves strangely, especially in the improvisation which dances in a barely perceptible 5/4.”

“Five Glimpses”: “These are five very short improvisations. Often when we’re recording, (producer) Manfred Eicher and I reach a point where we have the scope of the entire album mapped out. At that point we know what to add to change the density of the record. I played these fragmentary pieces, and called them glimpses. I ran off a whole series of them, all completely improvised little linear pieces. From these we made a selection, Manfred found a sequence for them, and they’re strung together to make a complete piece.”

“The Lizards of Eraclea”: “A piece with a busy, furtive, scurrying sound to it. I started it when we were vacationing on Sicily’s south coast and the place was just teeming with lizards running crazily everywhere. But I don’t think it was inspired by the lizards directly at all. The skill of being a composer who improves with age is to recognise when you have the germ of a musical idea or a kernel of a few events that can be developed into a piece. Not everything you come up with will have that capacity. Motifs can emerge at any time or place but writing music is, for me, essentially an internal experience. It’s to do with plumbing the depth of your experience and emotions, and not much to do with local surroundings.”

“Turning of the Leaves”: “I wrote this when I was working with singer Maria Pia de Vito who added her own Neapolitan lyrics to it. This is a revised and retitled version that still retains a songful quality.”

“Come Rain or Come Shine”: “The Harold Arlen standard. Almost all of the standards that Bill Evans chose to play adapt themselves remarkably well to the classical guitar, and I’ve always liked that song anyway. Do I still listen much to Evans’s recordings? No, rarely now. But I don’t have to. It was my initial grounding, and it’s part of my own music now. An important part. To sum it up, in the ‘Time Line’ sense: In the early to mid 60s, I was strongly influenced by Brazilian music, then basically drifted away from it while retaining its wonderful fundamentals. But it had a big impact on me, as a classical guitar player who was then making a living playing jazz piano! The Evans Trio with Scott La Faro and Paul Motian was another enormous influence, and I tried to develop the idea of embracing the interaction of a small group on the guitar itself. So there were these three lines – Brazilian music, Evans’s conception of jazz 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.”

“Freeze Frame”: “On this album, the 12-string guitar is heard only on the last two pieces. I was searching for an interesting tuning for it and ended up tuning the guitar’s six pairs of strings in different intervals, rather than unisons or octaves. This piece emerged as a series of episodes – like scenes or frames in a film.”

“My Man’s Gone Now”: “Another tune Bill Evans used to play. I think it sounds particularly interestingly on steel strings in the St. Gerold church. Gershwin is always lurking somewhere in my musical imagination. His was some of the first music I can remember listening to, when I was three or four. My brothers collected Gershwin records. And I loved them before I knew why. Now I know it was the wonderfully dark, melancholic melodies that got to me.”