During a distinguished career spanning six decades, Paul McCandless has brought a soaring lyricism to his playing and composing that have been integral to the ensemble sound of two seminal world music bands, the Paul Winter Consort and the relentlessly innovative quartet, OREGON. A gifted multi-instrumentalist and composer, McCandless has specialized in a broad palette of both single and double reed instruments that reflect his grounding in both classical and jazz disciplines.
Born in the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania to a musical family, McCandless inherited his artistic passion from his parents, who were both music teachers. Like his grandfather, his father played the oboe and acquainted Paul with the world of musical instruments in his repair shop, where pieces of old horns became toys. By age nine, McCandless was playing the classical clarinet. He was introduced to jazz during junior high school and was learning saxophone at the time that he took up his primary instrument, the oboe.
As he continued his studies at Duquesne University and the Manhattan School of Music, McCandless embarked on his performing career playing with the Pittsburgh Symphony at Carnegie Hall and the United Nations when he was only 19.
At the recommendation of his oboe teacher, Robert Bloom (Toscanini’s principal oboist), he joined the Paul Winter Consort. “At that time,” Paul recalls, “improvisation and classical music were completely separate. I started to bring those things together when I joined the Winter Consort. Paul (Winter) was looking for someone who could improvise on double reeds, so that’s when I began improvising on my classical instrument.”
While recording the album, "Icarus", McCandless worked with producer George Martin, who also produced albums for "The Beatles". Martin played the oboe himself as a young man and later wrote in his book ("All You Need is Ears") that Icarus was his favorite recording project of his entire career. McCandless said of this, "I still glow with pride at that quote, because he was a real visionary and helped bring a lot of creative music into the world." McCandless played with the Paul Winter Consort until 1973, recording five albums and appearing at the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West, the Tanglewood and Schaeffer Festivals, and numerous colleges throughout the U.S.
While he was a member of the Consort, McCandless formed an alliance with guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner, bassist Glen Moore, and percussionist Collin Walcott to form the group Oregon.