Saturday, July 30, 2011

Symphonic musicians against specialisation


Not too much specialisation in the photo above as the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio is joined in Studio 5 of the State Recording House, Moscow by jazz and world music group Oregon. Much of Oregon's distinctive sound comes Paul McCandless' oboe, English horn and bass clarinet and his double reeds have given the group strong links with the symphony orchestra. These stretch back to Oregon's formation in 1970 and their collaborators have included the Philadelphia Orchestra and the St Paul Chamber Orchestra with Dennis Russell Davies.

That 1999 session captured in the photo was for the Grammy nominated double CD Oregon in Moscow. Conductor for the sessions was the Armenian Russian saxophonist, bandleader and composer George Garanian (1934-2010) who was a leading figure in Russian jazz. Production credit goes to Steve Rodby who is better known as the Pat Metheny Group's bassist. Oregon in Moscow was released on Schott Music's Intuition label but is now deleted, although it remains available as an MP3 download. Which is a pity as the CD packaging is a thing of beauty that celebrates the fast disappearing art of sessions photos and informative essays, all fronted by the inspired cover art seen below which uses a painting by Caio Fonseca.

As with many world/jazz meets symphonic projects Oregon in Moscow sometimes teeters uneasily on the edge of easy listening. But there are also moments of beauty and in a neat piece of synchronicity Ralph Towner's Icarus plays as I write, surely music to die for. Projects like this have a place and these CDs have sustained me many times on the 1000 mile drive from Norfolk to Provence and Languedoc. Oregon is one of a trinity of linked counter-specialisation bands, the others are the Paul Winter Consort and Codona; read about them here and here.


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