RALPH TOWNER — My Foolish Heart (review)

RALPH TOWNER — My Foolish Heart album cover Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
KALEIDOSCOPIC

What could Ralph Towner possibly have to add to his deep catalog after 40+ years with ECM Records? Plenty, it turns out, and while some may grumble about the 40:28 running time, My Foolish Heart is proof positive that his unfettered guitar greatness has not even remotely diminished with age.

Towner's albums (even in the CD age) have never run long, and have rarely included a liner note like this one does. He tells us that the title track (and the Evans/LeFaro/Motian version in particular) had an "immeasurable impact" upon his formation as a musician, and that he "decided to pay a visit" to this "reverent musical space". It's one of the album's true highlights, and the only cover version among the other eleven which are his own compositions.

Long-time listeners will recognize all of the classic Towner trademarks, from the angular, jagged lines of "Pilgrim" to the unbridled vigor of "Rewind". Everything is played with an effortless authority, and the impressionistic "wide-open-spaces-under-a-wild-sky" atmosphere is always present. This is familiar, well-trodden ground, but Towner's intuitive intellect always gives us something original and he continues to turn new pages. The relentless subtlety of "Dolomiti Dance" is this album's stunner, but don't overlook the haunting nostalgia of "I'll Sing For You" or the searching ruminations of the shorter pieces. "Saunter", the longest track at 5:01, begins whimsically, but soon ventures toward probing bent notes and intense slides that are truly awe-inspiring.

Yet another Towner trademark is to be found in the closing flourishes he uses to wrap up his performances, almost as if he's letting the audience know, "we're done now". There's nothing in the kaleidoscopic sound-world of My Foolish Heart to indicate he's anywhere near to being "done". This album can stand head-and-shoulders next to anything else he's ever recorded without any qualifications. The ECM recording is, as always, pristine.

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