Oregon – Live at Yoshi’s
(Intuition – 2002)
by Shaun Dale
Since their emergence as an offshoot of the Paul Winter Consort in the early 70s, Oregon has created a distinctive body of music, a brand of jazz infused with classical and world elements. Paul McCandless has broadened the instrumental range of jazz with contributions on instruments like oboe, bass clarinet, pennywhistles and sopranino and soprano saxophones. Over time, Ralph Towner has added piano and synthesizers to his guitar contributions. Bassist Glen Moore is a master of both plucked and arco styles. The fourth original member of the band was Colin Walcott, whose work on tabla and sitar added another exotic element to the group. Since his death in 1984, the group has used a variety of replacements or played as a trio. Today, drummer Mark Walker has become a regular member of the group, and his contribution enhances the swing elements of their sound.
The music on Live At Yoshi’s, the group’s first live album in 22 years, was culled from four nights at the Oakland, CA, jazz landmark. Among the ten tracks are five previously unrecorded Towner compositions, four tracks from the group’s catalog and a group improvisation that demonstrates their remarkable musical sympathy, and is, perhaps, the best reason to add this album to your collection. Players with such a depth of experience in collaborative effort can, and in this instance do, cut to the very essence of jazz. There’s plenty of creative improvisation on the composed tracks as well, of course, and the job of selecting highlights has already been done by the track selection from the four night run. If you haven’t had the good fortune to hear Oregon in peformance, this disc is a fine demonstration of their live skills. If you have seen them, you already know that you want this one.