Originally posted on January 31, 2008
The phenomenal guitarist Ralph Towner and his cooperative group Oregon have been making great music since the late sixties. They have always had the knack of combining elements of world music, especially classical music from India, contemporary western classical, jazz, avant-garde and fusion with their own personal blend of sounds that has put them apart. With the tragic death of sitar-tabla-percussionist Colin Walcott in the ‘70s, they began a period with the exceptional percussionist-drummer Trilog Gurtu. Nowadays it is Mark Walker ably fulfilling that function. The rest of the lineup remains unchanged since its conception. Ralph also plays piano, there’s Paul McCandless playing distinctively an array of woodwinds, and the foundational yet exploratory bassist Glen Moore.
The latest CD 1000 Kilometers (CamJazz) involves a dedication to their late, long-time agent Thomas Stowsand. As always there are moments of quietly thoughtful music, more vibrantly percussive numbers and much in between. Each member is a master of his instrument. As a guitarist, you must not miss Ralph Towner’s playing if you don’t know it already. (He sticks with the nylon stringed classical instrument for this recording.) The same is true of Glen and Paul’s playing, and the “new” guy is darned good too. They write some wonderful music and improvise over it with careful virtuosity. You could call it mood music for cosmic introspection, but that might sound like you’re not supposed to listen to it. You are. You should.