Friday, August 24, 2007

Oregon - Out of the Woods (1978) [EAC-APE]

1. Yellow Bell (Towner) - 7:02
2. Fall (Moore) - 4:26
3. Reprise (Towner) - 1:02
4. Cane Fields (McCandless) - 4:35
5. Dance to the Morning Star (Walcott) - 5:36
6. Vision of a Dancer (Towner) - 4:03
7. Story Telling (Walcott) - 1:03
8. Waterwheel (Towner) - 6:26
9. Witchi-Tai-To (Pepper) - 8:24

Ralph Towner - classical guitar, twelve-string guitar, piano, flugelhorn, percussion
Paul McCandless - oboe, English Horn, bass clarinet
Glen Moore - bass
Collin Walcott - percussion, sitar, tabla, guitar

Woods was, in fact, Oregon’s most easily approachable album to date, though it made no musical compromises. Towner’s “Yellow Bell” may feel light and airy with a lithe melody, but shifting meters and his distinctive voicings make it no less of a challenge than songs whose complexity exists more clearly on the surface.

Walcott’s “Dance to the Morning Star,” featuring Towner’s resonant twelve-string guitar, demonstrates how the subtlest percussion can create strong forward motion. Walcott was a master of implication, and some of his best work can be found here. Bassist Glen Moore has always been a dualistic writer, capable of abstruse ideas and a wry sense of humor. “Fall 77” combines both with a playful melody that shifts into a riff-based solo section featuring McCandless’ bass clarinet. (

These guys are all incredible musicians. There is no question about that. But Oregon was one of those "greater than the sum of its parts" groups. It was a synthesis that transcended its members individual skills (which were immense), and transcends my ability to describe it. The jazz is just the beginning. The improv explores textures, rhythms, harmonies, and ensemble effects that just were not familiar to Americans at that time, and which still would enlighten the casual listener even in today's more diverse musical soundscape. The tabla, sitar, oboe, piano, bass, soprano sax, and other sundry instruments combine into something that occasionally gives you a surge of other-worldliness, as though this group has just broken the nirvana barrier and taken you with them. As a woodwind player myself, Paul McCandless provides endless inspiration. Genius is an over-used word, but I don't feel hesitant to use it to describe him. Ralph Towner leaves behind his roots with Paul Winter Consort to give us a performance that sounds as though it comes from one mind with his fellow players. Repeat that last phrase for all four players. This is an achievement in ensemble playing that is not to be missed. It should be required listening for all musicians. (



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