Randall Avers’ “Man in the Moon” is a heartfelt tribute to the seminal music of Ralph Towner. The recording is a culmination of a two-year grant Avers received to study and record his mentor’s enduring compositions. During the late sixties and seventies Towner seamlessly blended chamber music, jazz improvisation, and European folk styles to craft influential recordings as both a solo artist and as founding member of his inventive collective, Oregon. His unique and innovative approach to the acoustic guitar transcended and created musical genres, shaping the musical landscape of the later half of the twentieth century. Randall Avers, a gifted classical performer, composer, and educator in his own right, could not be a better vehicle to interpret Towner’s epic music. The album begins with the classic folk ballad, “Les Douzilles,” a picturesque ode to a rural cottage in Switzerland where the artist once stayed. While many of Towner’s classic compositions are featured in this recording, the strength of this release comes from the lesser-known gems that Avers uncovers in this collection. A case in point is the “Jugglers Etude,” from the album “Five Years Later,” an out-of-print collaboration with fellow guitarist, John Abercrombie. The piece contains some brilliantly executed melodic motifs, showcasing expansive intervals, rapid tempo shifts, and expressive circular phrasing. While Avers’ searing, pinpoint guitar work is more than striking, he remarkably never loses focus of Towner’s unparalleled touch and sensitivity. This recording also marks the debut of the “Madeleine Variations,” a dramatic set of classically themed works appearing on record for the first time. The album ends with the joyous anthem “Green and Golden,” a poignant, reflective, and hopeful ballad offering a fitting conclusion to this exceptional musical homage. All of the tracks were pristinely recorded by legendary engineer Jan Erick Kongshaug at Rainbow Studio in Oslo, home of many classic ECM recordings. “Man in the Moon” is an incomparable tribute, one that will further solidify Towner’s immense musical legacy, and should help bring Avers’ vast talents to an even larger audience. This is a landmark recording, required listening for all enthusiasts of acoustic music, and one that will endure for generations.
© James Scott, Minor7th.com