Ralph Towner/John Abercrombie: Five Years Later (ECM 1207)

1207 X

Ralph Towner
John Abercrombie
Five Years Later

Ralph Towner classical and 12-string guitars
John Abercrombie acoustic guitar, 12-string electric guitar, mandolin
Recorded March 1981 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

John Abercrombie is unique among guitarists in that whenever he becomes enraptured his sound becomes neither louder nor more pronounced but becomes somehow mysterious, liberated. Ralph Towner, on the other hand, revels in the crackling ruptures that so characterize his playing. Yet these roles seem reversed in this follow-up to the duo’s Sargasso Sea. A far more fragile carnation than its predecessor, it seems to forego the usual bag of tricks in favor of something more, as the album’s title would imply, reflective. This is especially apparent in the three improvisations with which the set list is dotted, and nowhere more so than in “Late Night Passenger,” where Abercrombie’s laddered filaments provide stunning berth for the other’s muted, jangling starlight.

As for composed pieces, Towner offers three, Abercrombie two. Among the former’s, the all-acoustic “Half Past Two” is a vibrating rib cage of biographical energies, and the most comely track on the album. The attraction continues with “Caminata” and on through the whimsy of “The Juggler’s Etude.” Abercrombie’s “Child’s Play” pairs electric and classical for a complementary sound, Towner’s shallower accents the caps on Abercrombie’s resonant stalks. Child’s play it may be in name, but in execution it is anything but. Yet it is in “Isla” that the reverie reaches new depths, the musicians’ negotiation of lead and backing effortlessly egalitarian. Such reciprocity is the keystone that keeps this arch from crumbling.

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5 thoughts on “Ralph Towner/John Abercrombie: Five Years Later (ECM 1207)

  1. Excellent review, and a transcendental recording. For me, Bumabia is a favorite moment for Towner from his entire canon of work, and Abercrombie as well. They bring out the best in each other’s playing, and telepathically guide the proceedings with composers’ perspectives. I miss hearing them play together, and would welcome “Thirty Five Years Later.”

    1. I, too, love “Bumabia” and can’t remember how it avoided mention in my final review. Either way, a wonderful exercise in telepathy, as you say. “Thirty Five Years Later” indeed!

  2. This disc is seemingly unavailable on CD through large commercial internet sites, etc… Perhaps, some one knows if this album was released on CD–and, if so, where to find a copy?

  3. Good news ! It looks like this album will be released on January 24 2014 in Europe, at least along with other long-awaited titles

    1. I’ve just discovered this too, and came back to comment, as a huge fan of Abercrombie & Towner, and of this blog!

      According to Amazon UK, due for release in January on CD and vinyl are:
      Five Years Later
      Contrasts by Sam Rivers
      Ritual written by Keith Jarrett, performed by Dennis Russel-Davies
      Miroslav Vitous Group – s/t
      African Piano by Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand)
      Seven Songs for Quartet & Orchestra by Gary Burton

      Keep it going Manfred – we’ll get to ‘Faces’ by John Clarke eventually!

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