For over three decades OREGON has inspired audiences in renowned concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic Hall, and Vienna’s Mozartsaal; at international jazz clubs and major festivals such as Montreux, Pori, Berlin, Montreal, and Newport Jazz; and on tours throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, Eastern and Western Europe, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Algeria, and Australia.
OREGON began in 1960 at the University of Oregon with undergraduate students Ralph Towner and Glen Moore who formed a musical friendship on bass and piano inspired by Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro and later by Brazilian music. Moore earned a degree in history and literature and Towner completed his in composition, taking up guitar in the process. In the mid 60’s, they both traveled to Europe. Towner studied classical guitar in Vienna with Karl Scheit; Moore studied classical bass in Copenhagen and sat in with such greats as Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon. By 1969, both were living in New York City, playing with a community of young musicians who formed the great fusion bands of the ‘70’s including Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Performing with folksinger Tim Hardin at the ‘69 Woodstock Festival, Towner and Moore encountered two members of the Paul Winter Consort who introduced them to the music of that group. In the studio with Hardin, Ralph and Glen connected with sitar and tabla player Collin Walcott. He was a graduate of Indiana University under George Gaber, studied ethnomusicology at UCLA and served as road manager for Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha. On a break at that session, Ralph and Collin played their first guitar/sitar duet in the hallways of Columbia Studios.
By 1970 Ralph, Glen, and Collin had joined the Paul Winter Consort for a 50-concert U.S. tour where they quickly formed an alliance with its oboist, Paul McCandless, who had studied at the Manhattan School of Music under Toscanini’s first oboe player, Robert Bloom. During that initial tour, Ralph began composing a new repertoire of original material including “Icarus”, which has since become a standard. The early development of OREGON took root in motel rooms and college dormitories where, in private jam sessions, Towner, Walcott,Moore and McCandless began investigating new musical possibilities after getting a taste of collective improvisation on tour with the Consort. Winter’s group introduced them to the idea of performing concerts with uncommon combinations of instruments in an eclectic variety of musical styles. Incorporating these elements, OREGON emerged with a unique synthesis of European classical instrumentation, American jazz harmony, and ethnic influences from around the globe. The notion of recording their own music first arose at a party, where Towner and Walcott were entertaining friends in their guitar/sitar configuration. The group was offered the use of an 8-track studio in the Hollywood Hills, known as “The Farm.” A short-lived independent label in Los Angeles subsidized six weeks of taping and mixing. The company did not succeed in selling the results to a major label and the tape went into storage for ten years before its Vanguard release on disc called—Our First Record.