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Oregon: Live at Yoshi’s

For 30 years now, Oregon–Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless and Glen Moore–has been recording with various percussionists, including the much-missed Collin Walcott. Live at Yoshi’s (Intuition), the latest from the cooperative quartet, finds Mark Walker in the drum chair, and it’s his backbeats, combined with the group’s strong melodies and infectious hooks, that might help give them the airplay they deserve. Towner composed seven of these 10 songs, and some, like “Distant Hills,” are so strong that they can stand on their own without any solos. Longtime fans of the group will certainly appreciate the pastoral “Green and Golden” and a new arrangement of Jim Pepper’s song for the original Americans, “Witchi-Tai-To.” Jazz fans will groove to the (relatively) straightahead “I’ll Remember August,” which features McCandless’ smoking soprano and Moore’s nimble bass solo. There may be a bit too much signal processing and reverb on some numbers, an effect that can sound overtly slick or commercial. Despite that, there are many memorable moments, including the hand-percussion and guitar duet during “Raven’s Wood,” the playful arco bass and bass clarinet on “Crocodile Romancing” and the atmospheric “What River Is This?” which might serve well as the soundtrack to an Imax film about primordial ooze. The only real disappointment is the gratuitous plug for the record company at the start of the disc. These guys are not only great players and composers, they have set incredibly high standards for this kind of music for more than three decades, and they deserve better.

Originally Published