418

Oregon: Out of the Woods / Roots in the Sky

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Oregon: Out of the Woods / Roots in the Sky
It's dangerous to ascribe new musical paradigms to one artist or group. There's no denying, however, that Oregon was one of the first groups to explore the nexus of jazz, classical and folk musics with ideas endemic to the music of India, Brazil and other cultures abroad. Although Oregon's entire discography has been available on CD at different times, a number of titles are currently out of print. Out of the Woods / Roots in the Sky is a welcome remastered reissue of the group's first two discs for Elektra, originally released in 1978 and 1979.

Signing with Elektra after an eight-year run with Vanguard gave Oregon a real budget and access to quality studios for the first time, and it shows. Both albums were cleaner, richer and more sonically expansive than previous releases, and these remasters are an improvement over the briefly available 1992 Discovery CD issues. Along with its final Elektra release, 1980's In Performance, these releases form a trilogy representing the end of the all-acoustic Oregon; Towner began to incorporate synthesizers on the group's self-titled 1983 ECM debut.

Oregon was always a democratic group. Guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner had already emerged as its most prolific writer, the late percussionist/sitarist Collin Walcott a close second. That balance remains here, but woodwind multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless contributes two of his best tunes—the pastoral "Hungry Heart" (Roots) and the more harmonically elaborate but equally accessible "Cane Fields" (Woods).

Woods was, in fact, Oregon's most easily approachable album to date, though it made no musical compromises. Towner's "Yellow Bell" may feel light and airy with a lithe melody, but shifting meters and his distinctive voicings make it no less of a challenge than songs whose complexity exists more clearly on the surface.

Walcott's "Dance to the Morning Star," featuring Towner's resonant twelve-string guitar, demonstrates how the subtlest percussion can create strong forward motion. Walcott was a master of implication, and some of his best work can be found here. Bassist Glen Moore has always been a dualistic writer, capable of abstruse ideas and a wry sense of humor. "Fall 77" combines both with a playful melody that shifts into a riff-based solo section featuring McCandless' bass clarinet.

Roots is a more difficult and, at times, darker album than Woods. Walcott's "House of Wax," featuring his innovative sitar work, is a relatively simple concept, yet the piece remains a greater challenge. Towner's brief and idiosyncratic "Orrington's Escape" segues into Moore's title track, another piece that builds from a simple but angular idea, finding Oregon at its most dynamic.

Still, Towner's energetic "June Bug" and broodingly open, clay pot-driven "Vessel" are as accessible as anything on Woods. Oregon would continue on after Walcott's tragic death in 1984, but these two releases would raise the bar for everything that followed.

Track Listing

CD1 (Out of the Woods): Yellow Bell; Fall 77; Reprise; Cane Fields; Dance to the Morning Star; Vision of a Dancer; Story Telling; Waterwheel; Witchi-Tai-To. CD2 (Roots in the Sky): June Bug; Vessel; Sierra Leone; Ogden Road; House of Wax; Hungry Heart; Orrington's Escape; Roots in the Sky; Longing, So Long.

Personnel

Glen Moore: bass; Paul McCandless: oboe, English Horn, bass clarinet; Ralph Towner: classical guitar, twelve-string guitar, piano, flugelhorn, percussion; Collin Walcott: percussion, sitar, tabla, guitar.

Album information

Title: Out of the Woods / Roots in the Sky | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Collector's Choice Music

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus
Ikue Mori / Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura
Read Time OutTakes
Time OutTakes
Dave Brubeck Quartet
Read In Baltimore
In Baltimore
The George Coleman Quintet

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.