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Crate Digger’s Gold: Ralph Towner/Gary Burton – Match Book

September 23, 2011

One of the great jazz labels of all time for me is ECM.  I first discovered ECM as it was Pat Metheny’s original label.  ECM releases have a distinctive feel – generally mellow, chamber jazz with a bit of a folk feel.

On of my garage sale finds this past summer was Ralph Towner/Gary Burton – Match Book.  I picked it up for several reasons: it was an ECM release (which have never failed me), Ralph Towner (I am a huge fan of his band Oregon) and Gary Burton (who was Pat Metheny’s mentor and am a big fan of Gary owning several of his releases).

Gary play the vibes in a very distinctive style – he generally is generous about letting the vibes resonate.  And he plays with two mallets in each hand – so he is playing both cords and individual notes.

Ralph plays acoustic guitars.  Two my ear he mixes classical and folk stylings.

On this piece Gary plays with slow style that really allows the vibes to resonate.  Ralph play both a classic guitar and a twelve stings.  At times he is playing conventionally, but other times very percusively.

Together Gary and Ralph play beautiful duets – complementing each instrument – not so much in harmony but percussively.  This is beautifully simple, yet complex music.  It is engaging enough for intent listening, yet gentle enough to use a background music.  In my mind this is an amazing feat to have engaging music for the active listening and yet still serve as unobtrusive background/ambient music.

I highly recommend this LP.  Given how quite the music is you will want a very pristine vinyl copy or the CD.  I got lucky and go a pretty clean vinyl copy for a buck at a garage sale – with a good cleaning it sounds absolutely amazing.  Given this is from 1974 it was originally issued on LP (so the preferred source) – I have never heard a CD edition so I have no idea of the quality of the CD (but ECM is a quality label and rarely disappoints on reissues).

Finally I recommend the review on “beyond sound and space” blog of the LP: http://ecmreviews.com/2010/12/05/matchbook/

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