Oregon, the band which has been existing for more than three decades, is well known for crossing borders of musical genres, combining stylistic means of jazz with those of classical and world music from the very beginning, playing world jazz, and being open to both Indian music and folk with Celtic elements.
Slide guitar and banjo whiz Tony Furtado's fourth album in four years (for his fourth label) is a perfect encapsulation of how his sound has grown. Encompassing folk, blues, funk, and jazz, the disc kicks off with a seven-minute jam on "False Hearted Lover" featuring Paul McCandless on reeds (a recent addition to the American Gypsies). The ex-Oregon member adds unique East Indian snake-charmer scales as the group churns up a frothy backing. It, like most of these live performances of tunes taken predominantly from Furtado's past two releases, leaves the studio versions in the dust. Furtado's dusky vocals resonate with a successful combination of pathos and intensity, neither detracting from, nor overwhelming the crack playing at this album's heart.
If there was a "second best" recording from Oregon in their early years, this would be it. The concept of "Winter Light" certainly reflects the visage of the Pacific Northwest in the fourth season, yet it is a music, and time of year, filled with hope for the future while pondering a somewhat bleak present. Winter can be pleasant, bearable and filled with its own snowy delights. The first three pieces on their own are worth the price of this entire project, and are definitive works from the quartet. "Tide Pool" while accented with bizarre twists, is anchored by Walcott's energetic tabla and Towner's pure bred energy on acoustic guitar.
Long before "New Age" and "World Music" became part of the musical-term language, Oregon was making music that would influence (directly or indirectly) those genres. During the early 1970s, the much-maligned fusion movement in jazz was building up steam, and Oregon, in their quiet, understated way, contributed greatly. The band played acoustically–all the players had jazz backgrounds as well as a strong interest in ethnic musics from around the globe.