Solo, trio, orchestra

By JON GARELICK  |  July 5, 2006

“The Prowler,” which he identified as an old one, recalled early acoustic-jazz-folk John McLaughlin, moving into jazz chords, and getting out there with broad-interval leaps. “Solitary Woman” unfolded like a movie-soundtrack piece, an evocative narrative with an “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” bass figure alluding to rock and roll and a minor-key folk melody as the haunting reprise and resolution of the form — or the story. He played songbook standards (“Come Rain or Come Shine,” “My Man’s Gone Now”), jazz standards (Mingus’s “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” Miles Davis & Bill Evans’s “Nardis”), and any number of provocative originals, even a reggae piece with a punning title (“Jamaica Stopover”). If by the second of his two sets (it was a generous one-admission, two-hour show with a 15-minute intermission) some of the vamps had grown familiar, Towner still offered surprises at every turn — even a bit of rock fuzz guitar created with a piece of paper stuck under the bridge.

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