The music of Ralph Towner

Symposium and concert highlight influential jazz guitarist

Ralph Towner was a musical prodigy, learning piano at age 4 and trumpet three years later. But it was only as a senior in college that he took up guitar.

Ralph Towner. (Photo: Paolo Soriani/ECM Records)

And yet, over the next five decades, Towner would emerge as one of the most inventive and influential guitarists in contemporary jazz. A founding member of the acoustic ensemble Oregon, Towner has recorded more than 40 albums and is widely celebrated both for his classically influenced technique and his pioneering use of the 12-string guitar.

On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17 and 18, Towner will headline a pair of events for the Jazz at Holmes Series at Washington University in St. Louis.

At 4 p.m. Friday, Towner will participate in a symposium on his work in the Danforth University Center’s Goldberg Formal Lounge. Moderated by William Lenihan, director of jazz studies in the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, the event will survey Towner’s career and compositional approach, especially the relationship between his music for guitar and for piano.

Then, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Towner will present a solo recital in the 560 Music Center’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall.

“Innovation is no easy feat,” Lenihan said. “Innovation across musical genres and styles is even more difficult. Ralph Towner is such an innovator. Regarded by many critics as the greatest living exponent of both the classical guitar and the 12-string jazz guitar, he is a unique figure in the modern musical landscape.”

Tickets and sponsors

The symposium is free and open to the public. Tickets to the performance are $25, or $20 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and $10 for students. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre box office or at the door.

Jazz at Holmes is sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, Student Union, Congress of the South 40, Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, University College and Summer School, Campus Life, Danforth University Center and Event Management, Community Service Office, Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, Greek Life Office and the Office of Residential Life.

For more information, call 314-862-0874; email; or visit Jazz at Holmes on Facebook.

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