Chiaroscuro - Ralph Towner & Paolo Fresu (3 stars)

Chiaroscuro - Ralph Towner & Paolo Fresu

(ECM Records)

Label veteran Ralph Towner teams up with ECM debutant Paolo Fresu in this quietly refined guitar and trumpet duo. The pair prove well-matched in musical sensibility on a collection of Towner’s tunes, both new and revisited, and a fascinating reading of the Miles Davis-Bill Evans classic ‘Blue In Green’ (Fresu is also co-credited with the guitarist on the pair of freer, more abstract improvisations that end the album).

The airy, spacious textures and intricate interplay of the musicians is captured in ECM’s usual crystal-clear sound, and is often absorbing. The Italian’s plangent, pure-toned trumpet and flugelhorn are a fine foil for Towner’s acoustic guitar meditations, played on nylon-string classical guitar, 12-string guitar and the baritone guitar – tuned a fifth below the classical instrument – that he has added to his repertoire, and demonstrates to good effect on ‘Doubled Up’.

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