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October 30th, 2013 BRETT CAMPBELL | Album Reviews
 

Album Review: The Ocular Concern

Sister Cities(PCJE)

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[WORLDLY JAZZ] The title of the Portland jazz ensemble’s new album is a little misleading. Composer-pianist Andrew Oliver’s four-movement suite—which adds top classical musicians, some from the Oregon Symphony, on violin, viola and cello—is indeed based on some of Portland’s 10 sister cities, a nice inspiration for jazz informed by global sounds, in the tradition of globetrotting bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck. But while vibes player Nathan Beck’s mbira summons our Zimbabwean sister city Mutare, Portland lacks an Argentine sibling to justify local tango master Alex Krebs’ bandoneon  accordion and milonga beat, and there’s little audible evidence of our sister cities in Korea, Taiwan and beyond. So is the concept all Bologna (which happens to be another of our sister cities)? In fact, Oliver explains, “the letters in the names of the sister cities were used to create pitch material.” 

Ultimately, though, what matters to listeners is the seamless integration of the guest artists with the core band, which features co-leader Dan Duval on electric guitar, clarinetist Lee Elderton, Nathan Beck on vibes and drummer Stephen Pancerev performing world music with serious jazz chops. Jazz fans will appreciate the grabby grooves that fuel all these diverse compositions, from the breezy opener “Oxygen Lake” to the unexpectedly gentle closing track, “William S. Burroughs, Let’s Go!” 

The band will premiere the suite in a concert this week that includes still another ambitious Oliver original: “New Traditions,” a new suite for Oliver’s Kora Band, commissioned by Chamber Music America. It’s a double treat for fans of jazz and world music alike.


SEE IT: The Ocular Concern plays Jimmy Mak’s, 221 NW Everett St., with the Kora Band, on Wednesday, Oct. 30. 8 pm. $10. 21+.

 
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