Having focused on small groups in the 2010s and even collaborated with Argentine ensemble Aires Tango for 2016's Duende, Ralph Towner returns to a solo guitar format on his 2017 ECM effort, the warmly ruminative My Foolish Heart. Entirely consisting of Towner's classically inflected original pieces save for a gorgeously measured rendition of the Victor Young/Ned Washington title track composition, My Foolish Heart is a virtuoso session, intimately delivered. On past solo albums, like 1973's Diary and 1982's evocative Blue Sun, Towner deftly exploited the use of overdubbing various instruments to achieve his atmospheric layers of harmony.
The Upshot: Simply put, the epitome of an acoustic jazz guitar record. BY MICHAEL TOLAND Ralph Towner's five-decade career has long revolved around low volumes – even when employing a synthesizer or a band, the acoustic guitarist (and sometime pianist and trumpeter) rarely strays from a quiet space. Quiet doesn't mean dull, however – few players have mastered the balance of intimate and immediate as has Towner.
Ralph Towner makes beautiful recordings that might be mistaken for sonic wallpaper by a lazy listener. His longtime collaboration with ECM Records, over 40 years old, has created almost two dozen atmospheric explorations. A few are minor classics: 1975's duets with vibraphonist Gary Burton, Matchbook, Sargasso Sea with fellow guitarist John Abercrombie, and Oracle with bassist Gary Peacock (1993), at least.