Oregon: In Performance

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I have always – wrongly – thought that Oregon was an ECM creation, one of Manfred Eicher’s inspired combinations that stuck together for a short time and then went their separate ways. But their three ECM sets all date from the mid-1980s whereas Oregon long predated that, making their first recording in 1970 and following it with a further 28 records on numerous labels and with varied changes of personnel, last issuing a recording in 2017. So much for my critical knowledge.

In Performance was Oregon’s second live recording, a double set recorded in New York, Quebec and Montreal and originally released on Elektra Records. It opens with the humorous “Buzzbox”, giving the lie that Oregon was always serious in intent, a demented buzzing percussion instrument introducing Wallcott’s African kalimba, Moore’s violin, McCandless’s tin whistle, and Towner’s piano in a densely polyphonic delight.

From then on it’s a sort of greatest hits package, “Along the Way” showcasing Towner’s classical Spanish guitar, “Wanderlust” focusing on McCandless’s plaintive and timeless oboe, Towner’s “Waterwheel” a delightful jig. Much of the emphasis is on classical precision, notably on Moore’s “Deer Path” and with Towner’s piano presentation on “Arion”, but Walcott’s “Drum Solo” is a reminder just how virtuosic and ebullient a performer he was. Like all live sets, In Performance is a bit overblown, but the spontaneous “Free Piece” and the ever-delightful “Icarus” more than compensate.

Discography
Buzzbox; Along The Way; Wanderlust; Deer Path; Waterwheel; Drum Solo; Arion; Free Piece; Icarus (74.01)
Ralph Towner (g, flh, frh, p); Glen Moore (b, vn, t, p); Paul McCandless (ss, bcl, o, f, cor anglais); Collin Walcott (sit, tabla, d, pc). Live, Carnegie Hall, NYC, Saint Foy University, Quebec, and Outremont Theatre, Montreal, 24–30 November 1979.
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