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Ralph Towner/Paulo Fresu, St George’s Bristol March 3

March 7, 2011
Paolo Fresu at a concert with Ralph Towner, Tr...

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Not going to say too much about this, as I’m guessing it’ll be reviewed extensively elsewhere. But must set down that it was exquisite music making, with an unexpected pairing of instruments and continually absorbing, delicate interaction between them.

Towner’s guitar style still seems all his own as he moves into his eighth decade, a compelling blend of classical technique with jazz sensibility, and his two acoustic instruments, especially his lower-tuned baritone guitar, both sound wonderful. His younger cohort, Italian trumpeter Paulo Fresu – seen in the UK last year with Carla Bley – shares a quiet intensity and a liking for spinning wistful variations out of striking melodies. The combination, guitar with either  muted trumpet or understated flugelhorn, is a marriage made in heaven.

The Italian, seated, with one foot nonchalantly tucked behind the other calf, still managed a spot of circular breathing, which I didn’t realise you could do on the trumpet. But this was an evening about feeling, not technique. Blue in Green, While she sleeps, I fall in Love Too Easily,  A Sacred Place – the titles indicate the prevailing mood. Low key, on the whole, and with a European flavour of cool, like the soundtrack to a French movie in which much rain runs down many windows. Beautiful, but usually with an undercurrent of melancholy. It echoed the feeling of the guitar/sax duo recording which John Pariccelli made a few years back with Fresu’s Carla Bley bandmate Andy Sheppard, and Andy was indeed in the audience to share this equally fine pair’s music.

There were lots of highlights, but the aforementioned A Sacred Place was perhaps the finest moment, a tune of Towner’s which he referred to as a hymn, and certainly sounded like something which would have graced St George’s before it was deconsecrated. Gorgeous, in the way that makes the neck hair stand up.

There was a nice piece of spontaneous improvisation to launch the encore, then one more lovely tune to send us into the night. They are touring for a little while. Catch them if you can.

Update: Sure enough, a review here in similar terms from the Jazz Breakfast. A different gig, but still singles out A Sacred Place as the high spot….

And here’s another from the same night, in great detail.

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