Festival Premiere at Soda Rock Winery

Ralph Towner with guest Paul McCandless

When: Friday, May 31
Time: 7:30 p.m. (courtyard open 6 p.m.)
Where: Soda Rock Winery, 8015 Highway 128, Healdsburg (Alexander Valley)

Few artists are as closely associated with ECM Records as Ralph Towner. Each is a Rock of Gibraltar, one an institution, the other a guitarist, each expecting the musical world to come to them, and it does. Each reaching past the stars for a standard of perfection and coming very close to achieving it.

Towner, whose skills on classical and 12-string guitar transcend all genres into a style that’s completely his own, has released 27 albums – solo or collaborations – on ECM, his first in 1972 and most recent, My Foolish Heart, in 2017. Strangely, only three of the 30 albums he made with Oregon – the band he founded in 1970 with Paul McCandless, Glen Moore, and Colin Walcott – are on ECM, which is a pretty bold statement about his independence.

As unique as Oregon was, one of the first bands to combine jazz with Indian music – both the Asian and Native American kinds – Western classical and folk into an improvisational outfit that flowed organically, Ralph remained somewhat apart and above. For his show at Soda Rock Winery Towner will be joined by his Oregon compatriot Paul McCandless, a master of odd horns like the oboe and English horn as well as clarinets and saxophones.

These two virtuosos have almost 50 years’ experience playing together, and the worlds they are capable of entering are legion. Whatever style you choose to call it, you will not fail to be moved.

Courtyard open from 6 to 7 p.m. with El Coyote Food Truck and wines on sale.