Oregon: Northwest Passage

For the past 27 years, Oregon (Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless, and Glen Moore, here joined by either Arto Tuncboyaciyan or Mark Walker on percussion) has defied categorization by creating improvisation-based music that draws its inspiration from a wide range of influences. The group’s latest CD, produced by Steve Rodby is no exception.

The set begins with an anthemic Towner original, “Take Heart,” which melds his warm but transparent nylon-string voice with McCandless’ lyrical work on soprano. Bassist Moore and Tuncboyaciyan, a veteran of Al Di Meola’s World Sinfonia, set up a hyperactive ethnic groove on “Don’t Knock On My Door,” a brief repetitive chant-like number, while Towner and Walker team up for “Over Your Shoulder,” a union of dynamically disjointed 12-string harmonies and articulate hand drumming. Among the album’s most striking material are the “sound pieces”-“Under A Dorian Sky,” “Under The Mountain” and the title track-beautiful miniatures that establish a single atmosphere. Northwest Passages’ myriad contrasts, numerous instrumental combinations, refined musicianship, and sometimes quirky material strongly suggest that Oregon’s musical explorations are far from exhausted.