Ralph Towner: Nimbus
Ralph Towner (12-string and classical guitars)
Solstice (ECM 1060)
Composed by Ralph Towner.
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
One definition of the word nimbus is " ...an atmosphere or aura, as of mystery." Master guitarist Ralph Towner assembled an extraordinary group of talented and sympathetic musicians to weave his vision of this classic and at once quixotic composition that combines a unique use of musical instruments not usually associated with jazz to create his own aura of mystery. This style could rightfully be coined classical fusion.
The composition's introduction captures the beautifully sensitive facility that Towner's touch can create on his classical guitar, a rare use for this instrument in this setting. Towner is artisan at building unusually evocative tension with his flawless technique and his purposeful intensity. After being lured in by the unique combination of his use of 12-string finger-picked guitar as backdrop to his overdubbed guitar solo, the group follows with the sparse melody on a stirring flute/12-string duet between multi-reed artist Jan Gabarek and Towner. The combination works wonderfully. The listener is then led through another musical door where Eberhard Weber's soulfully brooding cello work creates a more intense mood over his equally powerful basslines. The artists continue to raise the musical temperature, breaking into a furious tenor solo by the formidable Gabarek, who elevates the urgency with his firebrand playing. All the while Towner, Weber and European drum sensation Jon Christensen beat the music to a froth before settling back into the now-familiar melody with flute and 12-string ending in a satisfyingly complete conclusion. This music has tinges of the best frenzied fusion of the era, with all its smoke and technical virtuosity, while maintaining a musically complex yet surprisingly genteel quality. The composition is at once appealing and evocative, and its execution is flawless. Not to be overlooked.
Reviewer: Ralph A. Miriello