July 10, 2024

CHIAROSCURO is one of the more beautiful duet recordings to come along in a great while. The recording pairs Ralph Towner’s guitar excellence with Paolo Fresu’s insightful and melodic trumpet voice on 10 great songs. Except for “Blue In Green” which was written by Miles Davis and Bill Evans, most of the repertoire was written by Towner and has been previously released on several of his recordings. Towner co-wrote “Two Miniatures” and “Postlude” with Fresu and their rare instrumental combination brings forth fresh interpretations and newly realized possibilities inherent in their musical language.

Recorded in Udine in October 2008, Towner plays classical, baritone and 12-string guitars on this program while Fresu plays trumpet and flugelhorn.CHIAROSCURO revolves around Towner’s initial meeting with Fresu at a festival in Sardina some 15 years ago where he heard Fresu perform “Punta Giara.” The song is re-arranged here with the duo displaying their personal commitment to intense and immediate emotional experiences. On “Sacred Ground” Towner solos on baritone guitar and then broaches new ground on the reprise with the pastoral trumpeting of Frescu added to the song. Intricate indeed but the effect is a beautiful and spiritually uplifting hymn.

Delving deeper into the feelings of Davis and Evans on “Blue In Green,” both musicians offer remarkable interpretations of the cool subtlety and passionate, muted colors long associated with this song. Paolo Fresu has a clear, vibrato-less sound that acknowledges the influence of Miles Davis. “Doubled Up” is a great song that finds the duo revealing their zeal for experimentation. Much of their genius here lies in their ability to juxtapose the guitar chords and trumpet registers at exactly the right time, repeating the phrases at higher and lower octaves in order to give the doubling the largest and deepest tones. Theirs is novel, memorable and definitely worthy of a double listen! Ending the program with “Postlude,” Towner showcases his characteristic melodic fragments and comping chords as the perfect harmonic companion to Fresu’s soaring registers.

CHIAROSCURO should receive the patronage of jazz lovers worldwide if only for the rare pairing of these two masters. However, once you hear a few seconds of these great compositions, there is no justification for not purchasing CHIAROSCURO.

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