This is the newest recording by jazz guitarist Ralph Towner, and the third jazz release of 2017 that I’ve checked out (also the third album of Ralph Towner’s I’ve checked out). Most of the music on here is original compositions, with the exception of the title track, which is a jazz standard.
On this album, as on some of Towner’s prior albums, Towner performs as a solo guitarist on an acoustic guitar. Solo jazz guitar albums aren’t especially common, and solo jazz acoustic guitar albums even less so. I’d say Ralph Towner is solely responsible for the majority of those, at least as far as the ones that are fairly well-known go. Honestly, a decent amount of this album made me think of the music of the Wynham Hill label - lots of space and quiet, and just one classical instrument playing. I think Ralph Towner would fit in very well on that label - the only thing different is that he does actually play some jazz tunes, usually one or two per album.
I think folks who are expecting a ~jazz guitar~ album might be a little put off by this album, because that’s not really what this is. I think it’s a quiet but pleasant and technical jazz guitar album, even if it doesn’t really swing. Guitarists who enjoy technical proficiency will surely find something to enjoy here, even if it’s not in wild soloing or something like that. As far as my personal ranking of Ralph Towner albums goes, I’d say I like this more than Diary but not as much as Solstice.
One day in 1961 an 18-year-old German music student named Manfred Eicher descended the steps of the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village to hear the pianist Bill Evans, the bassist Scott LaFaro and the drummer Paul Motian. Breaking away from the conventions, they were pursuing an ideal of improvisation as a continuous three-way conversation. Inspired by what he heard, Eicher would go on to found the ECM label, dedicated to jazz as chamber music.
Tigran Hamasyan, Arve Henriksen, Eivind Aarset, Jan Bang — Atmosphères (ECM)
Tigran Hamasyan is slowly emerging as key
young figure in the modern jazz, folk, world music and classical crossover,
notably in the wake of last year’s Luys i Luso, also released on ECM. He
is deeply versed in the music of his homeland, Armenia, and notably that of
mystic writer-cum-self-taught-songwriter George Gurdjieff and the composer
Komitas. Both are seen as pioneers of ethnomusicology. They reasserted the
place of traditional Armenian music in the wider spectrum of Western and
Eastern musics, leaving behind a rich collection of songs and pieces for
contemporary generations to work with. Many an ECM release has been given over
to or inspired by one or the other (or both), but, if Luys i Luso and
now Atmosphères are anything to go by, Tigran Hamasyan seems to have
captured both visionaries’ music with particular skill, but above all an eye
for a broader consideration than mere ethnomusicology.