Ralph Towner / Paulo Fresu @ Turner Sims, Southampton
Went to hear this unusual acoustic guitar / trumpet duet on Friday night and felt that the music produced by Ralph Towner and the nattily - dressed Paulo Fresu was one of the best gigs I had been to for a long while. Towner is a mainstay of the ECM label and whilst the album that this duo were touring is one of the most solid that Manfred Eicher has put out for a while) the live context offered an opportunity to assess perhaps just how much influence the producer has over the performances that are issued. Certainly, this music , whilst very much in a Chamber Jazz idiom, was far more vigorous and unbooted that the record.
Towner's ability with the pen and manuscript is equal to his mastery on the guitar and the originals tended to be more reflective. What was intriguing was the inclusion of a couple of Broadway standards including a version of "Beautiful Love" which swung mightily. In fact, Fresu's ability to throw out pithy statements of either his flugelhorn or trumpet owed a lot to the same , measured ability of the great master Dizzy Gillespie to swing extremely hard at a very low volume. All this seemed very un-ECM like even if Fresu did sometimes resort to some form of electronic delay on his horn which delayed the notes he chose to play.
Whilst Towner's pedigree is assured having been consistently excellent on the label for nearly 40 years, this was the second time I have heard Fresu play live ( I previously caught his with Carla Bley's "Lost Chords" a few years back) and confirmed my impression of him as a major player on his instrument with, perhaps, a better grasp of the "American" traditions in jazz that his elder compatriot Enrico Rava. I would definately have to say that the younger trumpeter is the more swinging musician as well as owning a particularly pleasing tone on either horn.
For me this concert was certainly one of the best that I have been to for a long while in Southampton and the robustness of the duo's approach often had me stratching my head wondering just how much influence Manfred Eicher has over the musicians whose records he puts out and whether the more exuberant elements that this concert deomnstrated can be present, are filted out during the editing process. All in all, this concert was a masterclass in exemplary playing with Fresu nailing his reputation to the mast as one of the finest trumpet players in Europe.
Thank you for this IT, I have the Lost Chords album featuring Paulo Fresu and certainly enjoy that. I was drawn to Fresu's latest CD Mistico Mediterraneo by the reviews in the Guardian, but may well be checking out Chiaroscuro aswell. The tour of which the gig you attended was a part has also had rave reveiws in the Graun.
Their Edinburgh concert certainly got an excellent review: "one of the most gorgeous-sounding partnerships in jazz today."