On If Summer Had Its Ghosts, a primarily acoustic trio recording, drummer Bill Bruford, bassist Eddie Gómez, and pianist/guitarist Ralph Towner create some lush, wondrous, spontaneous and melodic music. It has jazz roots, improvisational branches, and elfin extensions. There's no gimmickry or pretension, although Bruford does add some sampled colors, and Towner overdubs his instruments as well as throwing in a pinch of electronic keyboards. What you basically hear is Bruford's newest and freshest music, interpreted and extrapolated upon by three virtuosos in mellifluous interactive conversation. At their most swinging, as on the lively, four/four, tick-tock, light rimshot, mid-tempo swing of the title track, they are telepathic, with Towner effortlessly switching from acoustic 12-string to piano and Gómez laying down soulful, full, deep bass punctuations. In a more ethnocentric bag, Bruford samples mbira for the folk-ish "Thistledown," Indonesian bells for the minimalistic, dancing "Splendor Among Shadows," and clay pots for "Silent Pool"; Towner emulates Peruvian wooden pan flutes on his synth for "The Ballad of Vilcabamba," replete with ostinato bass and quiet electronic handclaps. The drummer pays homage to Joe Morello's classic five/four "Take Five" drum solo on "Some Other Time" (not the standard) with an accent on the fourth beat, while slowly grooving in six/eight on the ballad "Forgiveness." "Never the Same Way Once" (an old Shelly Manne adage) is the showstopper, a time-shifting, bluesy, swing to bop and back again rhythm with the spritely Chick Corea-like piano-guitar melody that is completely unpredictable and delightful. It reflects an easygoing, loose, carefree attitude that defines this entire session. If summer really does have its ghosts, they would evoke echoes of spring, full of renewal, hope, and joyful anticipation. It is that spirit with which this music is made, and it is some of greatest music, collectively or otherwise, that these three have conjured in their lengthy, storied careers.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos