REVIEW/ PHOTOS: Paolo Fresu and Ralph Towner at Pizza Express

Paolo Fresu at Dokhuset Trondheim May 2016
Photo Credit Henning Bolte. ©FoBo__ 2016

Paolo Fresu and Ralph Towner
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 8th May 2016. Review by Sebastian Scotney) 

Quite a coup for Pizza Express, in the fortieth anniversary month of the club, to land this ECM duo of American guitarist Ralph Towner and Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, both having hot-footed it from Trondheim where Henning Bolte’s pictures – above and below – were taken.

The two have performed as a duo for nearly two decades. ECM released  a well-received album by them Chiaroscuro in 2010, and it was that album which provided most of the material they played last night. Their habits as a duo seem well-formed, they clearly prefer to stick to the song-book they know…. They brought contrast with excursions onto different instruments, widening the range of timbres and moods, with Towner switching to baritone guitar, and Fresu deploying trumpet, and flugelhorn, and also a trumpet hitched up to an effects box with chords and a touch of reverb/delay. If this duo is a democracy, the presentation doesn’t give that impression: Towner does 100% of the talking and introducing of the numbers.

For me the most touching moment was in The Zephyr, with Fresu on flugelhorn reaching ever higher on the instrument – making me wonder if he could have been paying homage to a much-missed club regular, the great Kenny Wheeler. Towner’s fleet-fingered playing belies his 76 years, there is virtuosity and agility a-plenty. There was a great ease in musical communication between the two, occasional attempts to play the game of beat-shifting and wrong-footing, while always staying within the form, and staying very close to the style and format of the album. Their familiarity and unruffled fluency sometimes gave the impression that both men – and particularly Fresu, could have had plenty more choruses in reserve. In the standard I Fall in Love Too Easily, Fresu seemed to be just getting into his stride. His beautifully shaped and focused sound his control for the ending of Sacred Place definitely stay in the mind. That really was a perfect take.

The Sunday night audience didn’t need to be reminded about the “silence policy,” because this music and these musicians held our attention throughout. A quiet night, with quiet stars playing for a virtually full and completely happy house.

Raplh Towner at Dokhuset Trondheim May 2016
Photo Credit Henning Bolte. ©FoBo__ 2016


Punta Giara
Wistful Thinking
Doubled Up
As She Sleeps
Temoriata (spelling?)

Blue in Green
The Zephyr
I Fall in Love Too Easily
Sacred Place

Encore: (?)
The encore at Pizza Express

Categories: miscellaneous

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