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Oregon - Live At Yoshi's CD (album) cover

LIVE AT YOSHI'S

Oregon

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.92 | 5 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars How a group this good has managed to survive so long beneath the radar is anyone's guess. Or maybe that's their strategy: playing music that appeals more to discriminating listeners who couldn't care less about popular fashion, except as something to avoid.

I would like to count myself among them, but until very recently I had never even heard the name of this renowned quartet. My thanks to BILL BRUFORD for the introduction: in his (recommended) biography the ex-YES / KING CRIMSON percussion ace mentions Oregon in connection with his 1997 collaboration with guitarist Ralph Towner ("If Summer Had It's Ghosts"). A chance search at my local public library immediately unearthed this gem, by coincidence made at the same Oakland, California venue where Bruford's band EARTHWORKS recorded their (likewise recommended) 2004 live CD "Random Acts of Happiness".

Veteran fans will know what to expect: an album of refined but exciting instrumental Jazz with subtle nods to global culture, in a style sometimes tagged 'World Fusion'. You can see it even in the track titles, many of them recalling a dusty African savannah: "Distant Hills", "Green and Golden", "The Prowler", and so forth.

The music itself is likewise sunny and expansive, with an eclectic mix of instruments suggesting more a Classical-Jazz hybrid rather than traditional Jazz-Rock Fusion: oboes and clarinet, English horn, and the occasional bowed acoustic bass. Add some exotic percussion, plus Towner's exquisite guitar technique, and the result is a very tasty package indeed, ranging in mood from the jaunty groovefest of "Crocodile Romancing" to more conventional Jazz ballads ("I'll Remember August") to a completely freeform improvisation not far removed from mid-'70s KING CRIMSON at their atonal best.

The album begins strong and only gets better. There's even a drum solo in the opening number of the set, something few bands would have the nerve to attempt, and fewer still with this degree of success. The four musicians on stage at Yoshi's sound like they've been playing together forever, which is practically true: Oregon is a group that has been around, in one form or another, longer than a lot of you reading this have even been alive.

Do yourself a favor and don't let them escape your attention, as I almost did.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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