If you know the music of Will Ackerman, I’ll wager you will remember exactly where you were when you heard it for the first time. For me, it was in a record shop in Richmond’s Carytown where I was used to hearing much more energetic fare while browsing around. Will’s 1981 masterpiece Passage was spinning on the turntable and I suddenly became transfixed with the evocative and eloquent beauty of what I was hearing. I had no idea at the time what an open tuning was or how much of a role that technique played in the development of his style, but even to my untrained ears there was a distinct quality about the manner in which he played his guitar that was both entrancing and deeply affecting.
To borrow an expression from the title of one of Will’s later albums, it was an opening of doors musically speaking – not only to the work of one individual but to a whole new category of listening and a community of like-minded and equally talented artists that were part of the beloved Windham Hill label that he ran until the early 90s including George Winston, Alex De Grassi, Michael Hedges, Michael Manring, and Mark Isham to name but a few. And while Will has remained active as a musician, producer, and collaborator over the years, it has been quite a while since his last album of all new solo compositions in the manner of such albums as the aforementioned Passage, Conferring With the Moon or Sound of Wind Driven Rain, which is what made the release of Positano Songs this spring such a delightful surprise.
The album was developed from a collection of musical ideas captured on tape during a 2015 visit to the village of Positano situated on Italy’s Amalfi coast which has a very special place in Will’s life and served as his inspiration. Many of the songs feature contributions from friends and Windham Hill alumni Charlie Bisharat (violin) and Eugene Friesen (cello) as well as Noah Wilding (voice) and Tom Eaton (bass and piano) & Jeff Oster (flugelhorn) with whom he collaborated on the Grammy-nominated album Brothers (2021).
I’ve been visiting Positano, Italy for decades now. It remains one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It is where Susan and I chose to be married, and a part of my heart will always live there.Will Ackerman
All of this brings us to the music, but here not much more in the way of words is necessary. If you have fond memories of listening to Will’s earlier work, the mellifluous expressions and exotic open tunings of Positano Songs will melt away the years and warmly welcome you back to a familiar place. If not, well then you maybe you will enjoy the same kind of quiet epiphany that I had in a little record shop one fortuitous day a long time ago…
Positano Songs is now available digitally and on CD via West River Records featuring artwork by Anna Rita Fattori and booklet cover photo of Positano by Inge Johnsson. Note that if you order the CD directly via Bandcamp, you have the opportunity to request an autographed copy.