Arve Henriksen's follow-up to his first solo CD, Sakuteiki, Chiaroscuro sees him exploring the same ethereal pastures, this time accompanied by sampling artist Jan Bang and percussionist Audun Kleive. As a result, the album has of course a fuller, busier sound, although the increment is discreet. Slightly closer in style to the softer moments of Supersilent, the album remains nonetheless the recognizable successor of Sakuteiki. Henriksen's trumpet is the heart and soul of the music, uttering simple slow-paced themes and lonesome calls. The artist sings wordless melodies, his falsetto voice becoming an extension of the trumpet, instead of the other way around.
Chiaroscuro at once has the feeling of inevitability and a sense of randomness about it, as if it were meant to happen, yet it's such a long shot that it ever did. Towner, the guitarist of the jazz/world/new age outfit Oregon, is an American who celebrated his 70th birthday in the year of this album's release, 2010 – it's his 22nd for ECM. Fresu is an Italian trumpeter, not quite 50, whose only previous ECM connection (among some 300 albums he's appeared on in all) came in 2007 when he worked with pianist/composer Carla Bley on her release The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu.
Following on their highly acclaimed debut album, the period instrument Chiaroscuro Quartet returns with another recording of chamber music of the classical period. Their approach, firmly committed and imaginative, fits particularly well with the trail-blazing works on this recording. In its day, Beethoven's famous ''Serioso'' quartet was considered avant-garde and experimental. Mozart's Adagio and Fugue is a veritable lesson in the art of counterpoint - rich with dissonance and brilliant in its subtle complexity and inventiveness.
Launch of a new duo with a most uncommon instrumentation, acoustic guitar and trumpet - but it's a highly attractive combination. Ralph Towner, guitarist extraordinaire, an ECM artist since 1972, is joined by Italian trumpet star Paolo Fresu, making his label debut for ECM.
Chiaroscuro is Ralph Towner's 22nd album as a leader for ECM, in a discography with well over 30 titles. Alongside the landmark recordings like Diary, Solstice and Batik, this one has all the hallmarks of a classic.