Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner: Oracle (ECM 1490)

Gary Peacock
Ralph Towner
Oracle

Gary Peacock double-bass
Ralph Towner 12-string and classical guitars
Recorded May 1993 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

With so much virtuosity living inside bassist Gary Peacock and guitarist Ralph Towner, one might expect from this duo a showcase of lively showmanship. And while this it most certainly is at heart, on the whole we are given an understated album recorded out of deepest respect for its listeners. The improv is robust yet tender and marked by a distinct patina around the edges. Above all, however, I find the playing to be forward thinking and worldly. Peacock and Towner bring a cartographer’s care to tracks like “Gaya” and “Inside Inside.” Programmatic energies abound in “Flutter Step” and “Burly Hello,” each speaking as if behind cupped hands into the ears of a secret joy, while the turns of “Empty Carrousel” resolve into a hazy picture that blurs even as it develops. “Hat And Cane” gives us a happy-go-lucky reprieve, its effervescent licks crossing the postcard of “St. Helens” into the title track. What begins as a quiet breathing exercise turns full somersaults for the album’s most intense unions. Finishing with “Tramonto,” we find the duo at its emotive best.

Oracle is like the ocean: we know its overall shape but the movement of every wave is at the whim of something unseen that flows through all of us.

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