Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Oregon's 1993 Trio effort
Phasedin | New Jersey | 12/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of only 2 discs Oregon recorded as a trio. The original quartet with percussionist/sitarist Colin Wallcot was intact until Walcott's death in a tour bus accident in November '84 after many recordings with the group. After a break, percussionist Trilok Gurtu entered the band for the next 3 recordings spanning a handful of years, but then departed. Instead of running out and hiring another percussionist, the remaining trio of founding members starting touring and recording as a trio, up until 1997's "Northwest Passage" CD, where they featured 2 different percusionists. The bands only other trio recording, following "Troika",is 1995's "Beyond Words" which takes a completely different approach as "Beyond" is basically a live-in-the-studio recording replicating an Oregon live performance in the context of a high quality studio sound recording. That Cd though primarily features pieces recorded previously by the group (sometimes numerous times)with only a couple new pieces. This recording, then, appears to me to be made up of entirely new pieces specifically written for "Troika" and, as a result, is perhaps the bands more important work as a trio. Matter of fact, in recent years, most of Oregons recordings feature a mix of new compositions and old pieces newly-recorded, which makes "Troika" probably even more important in the bands recorded works for fans looking primarily for material not available or re-recorded elsewhere. Of course the lack of any percussion at all makes this a bit different as well, even though there have been numerous percussionless pieces back in the Colin Wallcott days when Walcott would play sitar. But this is the first complete group recording without any percussion whatsoever. Perhaps this recording even hints a bit more at the "chamber/classical" sound area that has always been associated with the group as a result.
I wouldn't start new listeners here unless they come from the classical world however, as there's something just a bit atypical, or "inside" about this recording. For this very reason though hard-core Oregon fans would probably number this in with their most important recordings all the same. "Charlotte's Tangle" starts off the disc with an uptempo Ralph Towner (guitarist/keyboardist)tune, a rapid, playful little motif on classical guitar. This is followed by "Gekko" another Towner piece, slower, prettier, and very much chamber-like. So far it's a pretty typical (but very good) Oregon recording. Next up is "Prelude", an all-too short group improvisation where the more experimental side of the bands rasies it's head. Personally, these improvs that the band has been doing in recent years, both live and in the stuido, have been my very favorite Oregon moments for at least a decade now. Maybe it's because i'm such a hard core fan that it's always nice to hear the unexpected, or maybe because I just happen to love the more "avant-guarde" side that the band tends to explore when they do these pieces. So for these very reasons, the 3 "free" goup pieces on this recording are among my favorites (the other group improvised piece here being "Artic Turn/Land Rover"). "Mariella" is another pretty Ralph Towner piece in his more traditional compositional style. 'Mexico For Sure" is a nice, typically bouncy piece by Glen Moore which features Paul McCandless's saxophone as the primary lead voice also featuring a piano solo by Towner. Paul McCandless's own "Spanish Stairs" is really a highlight here. Just an incredibly beautiful, slowly unfolding, expressive piece that belongs in the bands live set for sure as well as any Oregon "best of" compilation. McCandless is not seen as being the bands primary composer (Towner is)but his contributions since 1983's "Crossing" have been absolute highlights for me on the groups albums. Next up is another favorite piece of mine also by McCandless "Pale Sun of Bk-71". This is a more electronically flavored piece built around Ralph Towners sysnthesizers and McCandless's saxophone with some nice piano playing by Towner with Glen Moores bass giving just the perfect support down at the low end of his upright bass. Just perfect. This piece could best be described as "haunting", and one again, yes, I would put it on my Oregon "best of" compilation as well! "I Said Ok" is quite noticebly for those familar with the band, a Glen Moore piece from it's very first notes of this bouncy bass-driven uptempo groove. This one is as close to a boogie-woogie style piece as I can recall Moore ever composing (or the band playing). This features Towner's Jazzy-Boogie piano playing (something rarely heard)as well as a Glen Moore bass solo. Quite a startling contrast to the previous piece, "Pale Sun" I must say. It's as if the guys were saying "just making sure you're following us here!". "Tower" is another real nice Ralph Towner piece built around Ralph's classical guitar, bass, and saxophone. This could be the closest sounding piece on the album to the bands patented original sound that many fans associate with the group and their 70's recordings. A very purely acoustic sound on this one. "Minaret" is another group composition. Although it doesn't state that it's another improvisation, it appears to be a very close cousin to the other 2 on this disk if not an ouright section taken from a longer improvisation that also yielded "Prelude". The Cd ends it's 57 minute run with a Towner compostion "Celeste", once again in the more traditional Oregon acoustic mode of the bands classic sound. This one is a pretty piano ballad where one can hear the influence of Bill Evans on Towners playing. Very nice with some effective jazzy Glen Moore solo bass playing recalling the classic Bill Evans trio setting recordings where the bass was featured prominently.
All in all I would have to say this disc took quite some time to really get into my system. I really can't explain why it wasn't an immediate "hit" for me, as used to introspective music that doesn't shout out to one as I am. All I know is this is one NOT to be missed by Oregon fans, as it is easily one of the bands best (and most important) works of the 90's. 4 1/2 STARS ."