A solo album from one of the great masters of the acoustic guitar. Ralph Towner has appeared in many contexts for ECM since 1972, but it is perhaps his outstanding solo recitals which most clearly emphasise both his improvisational brilliance and his finely-wrought compositional sense. The dictionary defines an anthem as a solemn song of praise; there are several on this disc. Most are written by Towner himself and played with the "almost oriental sense of balance and dignity" that the New York Times long ago singled out as hallmarks of Ralph's work, but the repertoire here also includes Charles Mingus's solemn song of praise in memory of Lester Young, "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat" as well as "Gloria's Step", written by the late Scott LaFaro.
The guitarist Ralph Towner is a master of many disciplines and has fashioned an album of quiet brilliance in the form of Anthem. The songs here are obviously composed yet plainly suffused with improvisation ' Towner begins with basic melodic structures and then lets his fingers fly, ornamenting the intervals with subtle flourishes, sustain and delicate harmonics. He understands the value of silence, too: the spaces between the notes - just listen to Solitary Woman and Anthem itself. Towner has brought together a collection of deeply felt narratives expressed unaccompanied on classical and 12-string guitars. ... A veteran of many styles of music-making and famous for his work with Gil Evans, Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek, Towner is still so versatile at 60 that he often sounds like three or four musicians playing simultaneously. This is an astonishing record. His best yet.
Mike Bradley, The Times