A Fiery Collaboration
Stephen Silberman | SF, CA USA | 06/16/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Make that four-and-a-half stars (don't you wish Amazon offered half stars as an option?).When I first heard this album on vinyl in 1978, I was a little disappointed. The presence of fiery Polish violinist Zbigniew Seifert seemed a hectic distraction from the purity and meditative calm of Oregon's sound; the fact that the opening free improvisation took up most of the first side of the record didn't leave enough room for new Ralph Towner compositions.Boy, was I wrong! This album has worn very well with time. Seifert's primary inspirations were John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner -- though he doesn't imitate them in any way, and his improvisations are steeped in Eastern European folk melodies, there was the same passionate, searching quality in his music. (Sadly, Seifert died of cancer several years ago.) The opening track, "Violin," is perhaps Oregon's finest and most spirited collaboration with an outside musician, their recording with Elvin Jones included. Seifert is fully assimilated into the Oregon "group mind" -- the five of them play and breathe as one, as they explore landscape after landscape together.Towner's lovely "Raven's Wood," first recorded on the proto-Oregon ECM album "Trios/Solos," gets a rousing reading here. Glen Moore's "Flagolet" is a wonderfully strange series of suspended chords -- one of those _sui generis_ tracks that are sprinkled throughout Oregon's oeuvre like signposts to undiscovered musical continents. "Serenade" is as pretty and timeless melody as Towner ever wrote, and "Friend of the Family" is a stirring closer. At all points, the Oregon core is playing with deep empathy, with Seifert cranking up the heat.A very fine album, if not as five-star sublime as Oregon's greatest work, like "Winter Light," "Distant Hills," and "Crossing.""