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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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OREGON

1000 Kilometers

CamJazz CAMJ 7803-2

 

 

 



1. Deep Six.
2. From a Dream
3. Catching Up
4. 1000 Kilometers
5. Bayonne
6. Simone
7. Free Imp
8. Back Pocket
9. Relentless Imp
10. Paraglide
11. The Bactrian
12. 1000 Kilometers (reprise)

 

Paul McCandless – Oboe, English horn, bass clarinet, soprano

Ralph Towner – Classical guitar, synth guitar, piano, keyboards

Glen Moore – Double bass

Mark Walker – Drums, hand percussion, drum synthesiser

Oregon is a quartet which has ploughed its own furrow for more than 35 years. Long before it was fashionable, Oregon was exploring what we now know as World Music, as well as incorporating elements from classical and folk music. The band still has three of its four original members: only the drummer has changed several times. My favourite era was when Trilok Gurtu brought his multiple percussion into the mix, but Mark Walker now deals impeccably with the percussion. The group’s guiding genius is Ralph Towner, who might be described as a guitarist except for his many other talents – including pianist, keyboardist and composer. Multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless is another group stalwart with his keening reed instruments. The reediness of Paul’s oboe sometimes gets too shrill (leading to the thought that, like some jewellers, he could hang up a sign saying "Ear piercing while you wait"). Yet Oregon’s music is generally easy on the ear. This can lead to blandness but the intelligence in the writing and playing keeps the listener alert.

And there is plenty of variety. The opening Deep Six is a complex yet attractive piece which illustrates the quartet’s ability to create rich and varied sounds as well as compulsive rhythms (underpinned by Glen Moore’s sturdy bass). The title-track refers to the long distances the band often has to travel to gigs: a distance which the band came to call a "Stowsand", from the name of the band’s late manager, Thomas Stowsand, to whose memory this album is dedicated. Glen Moore’s double bass becomes a melody instrument in Back Pocket, accompanied only by drums (a pairing which throws my mind back to Big Noise from Winnetka). The Bactrian evokes the ungainly lope of the camel and an exotic Arabian atmosphere. Tracks seven and nine consist of free improvisations which, because of the group’s empathy, are more integrated than many attempts at free playing.

In these days of musical excess and showing-off, Oregon remains steadfastly restrained – even at times introverted. Yet their music has integrity as well as beauty, stimulation as well as thoughtfulness. Long may they continue.

Tony Augarde



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