Live review

Ralph Towner solo at Pizza Express (2021 EFG LJF)

Ralph Towner
(Pizza Express Soho. 14 November 2021. EFG LJF. Live review by Sebastian Scotney)

Ralph Towner at Pizza Express Dean Street. Photo copyright Roger Thomas

Some other guitarists don’t just plug in the guitar but a whole paraphernalia of other equipment too…. and some other guitarists have big egos or make a lot of noise… and some other guitarists attempt to be invincible and defy the passing years. Ralph Towner in his solo show plays acoustically in front of a microphone. He is authentic, humble and disarmingly honest. And very special.

Towner’s solo shows are indeed always something memorable. The last one I went to (in Croatia – reviewed here ) was utterly unforgettable, so this gig inevitably brought back some very happy memories.

As Joe Paice reminded the audience, this is quiet “listening” music, and perhaps one of Towner’s great arts is the use of silence. The slowness of “Danny Boy”, for example, is like an invitation to dwell on intriguing reharmonisations and voicings. And in a standard such as “Make Someone Happy” the rising intervals in the tune are there to be savoured, lingered over.

Two moments of glorious playing stand out for me. The hushed ending of “I’ll Sing to You” with the tune coming from deep on the lower strings of the guitar was quite magical. And in one of the new tunes “At First Light”, it seemed as if the motifs of “Glide” were being seen through the glistening light of a different prism.

The end was touching and poignant. Towner started an encore, that disarmingly beautiful tune “Always By Your Side”, but then stopped, and apologised that his focus and concentration had gone. He thanked the audience and said goodnight. By that time, however, he had completely deserved the standing ovation he received from a substantial proportion of the audience.

First Set
Flow
Make Someone Happy ( Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden)
Guitar Picante
At First Light
Little Old Lady (Hoagy Carmichael}
Danny Boy (Trad.)
Anthem
Dolomiti Dance

Second Set
Saunter
My Foolish Heart (Victor Young/ Ned Washington)
(Untitled new tune)
I Fall in Love too Easily
I’ll Sing to You
Ralph’s Piano Waltz (John Abercrombie)
Ubi Sunt

Encore
Always By Your Side

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