Morning Sun: Adventures with Oboe
This is described as "A Retrospective Celebrating 45 Years of Genre-Bending Iconic Mastery" and gathers 16 performances by McCandless with the Paul Winter Consort over this period of time with over an hour of music. McCandless, as demonstrated on the performances on this recording, that the oboe is an instrument that can be welcomed out the confines of the Western classical music tradition on performances capturing folk roots, jazz improvisation and new age sensibility. McCandless also brings the French Horn on several selections to the fore in a similar fashion.
Listening to McCandless' melodious playing certainly can bring a sense of calm and relaxation, even when playing some rhythmically spirited tunes. Their is a such a broad spectrum of musical settings represented, including the unusual instrumentation of the Consort that included when he joined it Ralph Towner's guitar, Winter's soprano sax, Colin Walcott's tabla, triangle an drums, and David Darling's cello starting with the the uplifting opening selection "All the Mornings Bring." "Elves Chasm," is a lovely solo oboe performance recorded in the Grand Canyon with the sounds of nature (birds and the Colorado River) in the background while "Whooper Dance" has voices of a pair Whooping Cranes echoed in the Oboe improvisation, and "Eagle," a duet with the melodic theme suggested by the cry of an African Fish Eagle.
A later version of the Consort with Oscar Castro-Neves on guitar, David Grusin on keyboard and John-Carlos Perea on vocal, performs "Witchi Tai Too," a Native American traditional healing song that Indian jazz musician Jim Pepper adapted. McCandless plays the opening on French Horn but later taking off on oboe after the first vocal chorus here. The Brazilian singer and guitarist Renato Braz is present on the lovely "Anabela," with lovely oboe accompaniment and sings wordlessly on "The Last Train," with a mesmerizing, soaring oboe solo. On the uplifting message song "Common Ground," there is marvelous McCandless accompaniment to later choruses of the song.
The sereneness of "Sunset on the Great Sand Dunes" is followed by the lively Ralph Towner composition "Un Abraço (A Big Hug)" (which was McCandless' first recording on oboe). The stately "Sunderland," has lyrical French Horn framed in a pastoral setting while "Twilight" finds McCandless' French Horn improvising over Grusin's synthesized chordal journey. Bach's "Fantasia in G" was recorded by the Consort at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine employing the Church's pipe organ over which McCandless plays somewhat wildly over Bach's harmonies.
This wonderful retrospective closes with the tranquility of "Morning Sun," with the interweaving of the various solo voices (oboe, Winter's soprano sax and Eugene Friesen's cello). The marvelous compilation of music is accompanied by a 32 page liner booklet with essays, including an appreciation of McCandless' oboe playing, from Winter, a short autobiography by McCandless, and notes on each of the 16 selections from Winter with session information included. Of course McCandless' musical legacy also includes his decades with Oregon, but even this slice of his musical career is something to be savored.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November-December 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 375). Here is McCandless with Oregon performing "Witchi Tai Too."