Ralph Towner & Gary Burton: Icarus
Recorded: Ludwigsburg, Germany, July 26 and 27, 1974
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Both of these musicians had fully assimilated the modern jazz tradition before joining forces for their Matchbook sessions on ECM. Burton had worked with Stan Getz and George Shearing, and had been one of the first to test the fusion waters, with his Duster release on RCA back in 1967. Towner had also tried his hand at fusion -- he appeared as a guest artist on Weather Report's I Sing the Body Electric almost three years prior to Matchbook -- and had even made his mark as a pianist before focusing on guitar. But the constraints of the standard post-bebop vocabulary were too confining for these players, who wanted to assimilate a variety of sounds (folk music, classical, ethnic, and avant-garde, among others) into their ever expanding musical melting pots. "Icarus" is one of Towner's finest compositions. He had already recorded it with the Paul Winter Consort and on his ECM solo release Diary, and he would draw on it again with the band Oregon and in other settings. The composition evokes a transcendent, yearning ambiance -- this is nothing less than a musical soundtrack for a personal vision quest. Here is the mythical Icarus while still in ascendancy and heading for the stars, and Towner and Burton enter fully into the emotional maelstrom of the flight.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia