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OREGON

Oregon

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Ralph Towner must be the only North American guitarist who records for one of the world's leading jazz labels (ECM) using only acoustic guitars - no electric ones. His solo albums for the label, especially DIARY and BLUE SUN, have been exceedingly lovely. (Towner lends his compositions extra colour by also employing piano and synthesizers.) As soon as these albums arrived on Prog Archives, I would give most of them 4 or 5 stars.

Oregon is the band with which Towner originally climbed to fame, at least in jazz circles. What kind of music can you expect from them? When you look at the wide variety of instruments the band's members employ, and you bear in mind that they play a mixture of jazz (modern, but never harsh), European chamber music, psychedelic music, "world music" and folk, you can more or less imagine their style. These guys are adventurous, melodious and predominantly gentle, but never sentimental or bland - at least not on this album. The only thing I regret is that wehear comparatively little of Towner's guitar. Paul Mc Candless (on oboe, soprano sax, English horn and musette) is by far the most dominant player.

Wholeheartedly recommended to all listeners who long for subtle "acoustic prog".

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#125339)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another thoughtful, classy title in discog full of them

Recorded in February 1983, this title was reissued in 2008 by ECM in a handsome but appropriately minimalist paper-sleeve edition. Oregon is a free spirited, mostly-acoustic "world-jazz" outfit who incorporate a wide range of eastern and western elements in their sound. Within an improvisational jazz framework the rhythm and mood can take any experimental avenue though the sound is never what I would describe as difficult or harsh. Though that does not mean this is lightweight or sleepy either. They are a thoughtful collective featuring acoustic guitars, piano, double-bass, synth, saxophone, oboe and percussion primarily, with occasional viola, English horn, sitar, clarinet, and wordless voice. Oregon has always been a frustrating band for me even as I realize how excellent they were. I realize this is highly sophisticated stuff and always try to give it 100% concentration when listening but invariably I drift. One of those bands whose enjoyment level may very well hinge on your ability to meditate. You have to really let go and let this wash over you. "The Rapids" is a lengthy dance of the soprano saxophone in a familiar (for Oregon) outdoor theme, very sunny in disposition. A bit of darker mystery creeps into "Beacon" courtesy of the oboe and viola. "Beside a Brook" finds Towner breathing beautifully at the piano for an extended period with English horn and oboe accompaniment. Oregon is never a noisy proposition like many bands are. This is almost the soundtrack to internal dialogue. Highly skilled musicians weaving bits and pieces off each other, with a completely uncluttered arrangement and flawless production. In the quiet spots (of which there are many) you can hear a pin drop, and almost zero hiss. There are moments in "Arianna" where the effect is positively mesmerizing ambient drifting, as if Eno had sat in with feistier musicians. In the closing "Impending Bloom" there are some call/answer vocalizations before the horns begin building in intensity to cap off the album. Oregon is tremendously hard for me to review as the music is so unique, so personal. They are not going to please everyone with their deliberate and patient sound but for those who do like this, you can look forward to album after album of similar musical dialogues. Oregon had a long and productive career and tried many variations on their central theme of studied improvisation. It is very well done and deserving the attention of anyone into acoustic jazz or improvisation, although it may be better to start with their early work. 7/10

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#216472)
Posted Monday, May 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars OREGON has been a band that i've had a hard time getting into. I guess it's because it's all- acoustic. Anyway I though i'd take a chance on this one mainly because of a review by R.Hutchinson. He talks about how he wore out two cassettes of this recording back in the day.The band hadn't recorded a studio album for a few years and then signed with ECM. So this album is fresh, it's like the band has been rejuvinated.They would use synths as well for the first time and I like the way they're used in the background to create atmosphere.That alone might be why this one clicked with me immediately. Check out the album cover of the artist using the sky as his canvas. He's about to throw a disc of orange paint at it. Cool.

"Rapids" opens with sax and piano leading the way as it builds to a full sound then settles back. I like the percussion before 4 minutes as the sax solos. It settles again after 5 minutes then rebuilds after 6 1/2 minutes. "Beacon" opens with viola and aboe. Some percussion joins in as these sparse sounds continue. Cool tune. "Taos" opens with percussion that comes and goes. Bass 2 1/2 minutes in with synths as it builds.Tin flute too. Amazing sound here. Some classical guitar then it turns spacey late. "Beside A Brook" opens with piano and eventually we also get English horn and aboe helping out.

"Arianna" is interesting with the sounds that come and go together. Sitar, English horn and aboe on this one all create some great sounds.The tempo picks up 2 1/2 minutes in. "There Was No Moon That Night" opens with classical guitar followed by clarinet before a minute. It becomes intense briefly 2 1/2 minutes in. I like the clarinet 5 minutes in as the guitar and percussion help out. "Skyline" is a short piece with synths, bass and percussion. "Impending Bloom" is different. We get these vocal expressions that I like with a catchy rhythm. Piano after 1 1/2 minutes with english horn to follow. Musette (horn) takes over 5 minutes in.

A classy recording reminding me of Chamber Music. Intricate and beautifully done.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#296269)
Posted Thursday, August 26, 2010 | Review Permalink

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