• photography by ©Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

The unmatchable guitarist Ralph Towner made a double solo appearance at Jazz Standard on March 27th and 28th. JazzTrail was there on the latter night to cover the first set, in what was a purely acoustic performance enlightened with instrumental prowess.

The show kicked off with the glowing Third Stream provocations of “Saunter”, one of the new pieces included on his latest ECM album, My Foolish Heart. The emotionally-weighted standard that gave the record its title was performed next, not without Towner referring how ironic the designation sounds to him since he had a few interesting episodes going on with his heart that led to a triple bypass. He played it marvelously, having the sound waves of his classical guitar filling the room in a complete consolidation of melody and harmony. He chose to play three other tunes from the new album: “Pilgrim”, whose nomadic nature was maintained through a mix of controlled rambles and lyric refinement, “I’ll Sing To You”, a particularly romantic incursion, and “Dolomiti Dance”, which bridged styles by adding jubilant Brazilian choro flavors to the prevailing folk jazz.

Towner is also known for shaping standards in a very sui generis way, and the happy yet intricate rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Little Old Lady” as well as the expressive “Make Someone Happy”, a 1960 tune composed for the musical Do Re Mi, couldn’t have been more explicit.

Anthem” and “Guitarra Picante”, two old originals recorded several times before, made the night of the numerous fans present that night. However, for me personally, the peak of the peaks was reached with “Ralph’s Piano Waltz”, a fabulous tune penned by fellow guitarist John Abercrombie in the mid-70s while seated at the piano in Towner’s house - hence the title. The solitary troubadour pervaded it with crystalline harmonics scattered throughout the ingenious fingerpicking, accomplishing an immaculate execution.

The audience wanted more and the clapping didn’t stop until the encore, conceded with “Tramonto”, a composition that first appeared in 1994 on a duo album with bassist Gary Peacock. Inspiring night!