Ralph Towner: Lost And Found (ECM 1563)

Ralph Towner
Lost And Found

Ralph Towner classical and 12-string guitars
Denney Goodhew sopranino, soprano, and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet
Marc Johnson double-bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded May 1995 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

2001 was a difficult year. Aside from the tragic political tightrope we all were walking, I’d just come out of a relationship for which I’d uprooted myself, was now living in a place where I knew no one, and had taken to spending much of my time making friends online. One of these—an artist and socialite from Bali—and I became especially close through a shared love of music. At the time, the dividing cell culture that was my CD collection boasted about 1000 albums (400 of which were ECM), hers twice as much. One day I casually mentioned to her that I was listening to Ralph Towner’s Lost And Found. There was a pause in our chat window before she admitted that she’d been listening to the very same. Since then Lost And Found has lodged itself in my memory through the sheer (im)probability of this coincidence.

The music is equally rich with coincidence, drawing intersections between Towner’s classical and 12-string guitars, Marc Johnson’s upright, Jon Christensen’s palette of the drum, and the many reeds of Denney Goodhew in a surprise appearance—his first (and last) for the label since 1981’s First Avenue. Compositional credits are fairly well spread over fifteen dreamy tracks, with Towner taking half. The rounded insistence of “Harbinger,” for one, is a welcome introduction to his unique solo language, while the full quartet sound of “Élan Vital” pulls its simple carriage through a chain of emotional way stations. “Scrimshaw,” for another, describes his art in another word, for like its namesake it is a quiet and etching pursuit. Towner blows this dust into “Midnight Blue…Red Shift,” among an eclectic dash of Goodhew tunes that also includes his jaunty “Flying Cows” (insight into the cover’s land-bound pig, perhaps?). Johnson’s contributions are some of the session’s deepest. Whether it’s the shimmering refractions of “Col Legno” or the homeless groove of “Sco Cone,” his bare presence speaks to Towner’s all-inclusiveness. In the end, though, the guitarist’s waters run purest, flowing through descriptive scenes like “Tattler” on the way to “Taxi’s Waiting,” thereby ending the set with everyone accounted for.

An album to take on the road, for it is a road in and of itself—one that bridges gaps of solitude and, to this soul at least, whispers a small hope that we might all still be connected in this fallen age.

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