Oregon: The Art Of The Musical Canvas

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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This, to me is why the music of Oregon is a magical experience. It is like a canvas of sound that remains wet and vivid long after the sonic moments have long passed!
It is very rare indeed for the art of the brush on canvas and fingers on musical instruments to inhabit the same time, space and composition. But when it does a lifetime of magical experiences are born and stay with you forever. To do this the artists must make a myriad metaphysical leaps and transmigrations! A twist of fate that must make mind, body and soul dance with the re-invention of pure joy. To do this requires re-locating the landscape of music to a canvas in the musician's mind and the listener's ear. There is no group of artists who can perform this magic like the musicians of the group - Oregon.

The odyssey of Oregon began over twenty-five years ago, in the Paul Winter Consort, when, it is rumored, Richard Bock - then cellist of the Paul Winter Consort - told tales of the legendary loft sessions involving Ralph Towner, Collin Walcott and Glen Moore. Paul McCandless - then oboist with the Consort - was entranced enough to join in the sessions that must have sounded like music from quite another world. Small wonder as Towner were melding their Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro thing with a certain something that was being developed by Collin Walcott after he had been schooled in the Indian music dialect by years of managing the sitarist, Ravi Shankar when he hit the road. McCandless brought word of this to Winter, when the latter was looking to hire a classical guitarist. But Ralph Towner, Glen Moore and Collin Walcott came as a package. And just as well for Paul Winter, who was shaping his unique sound in cathedrals and concert halls - as far removed as the Lincoln Center and the Grand Canyon!

Paul Winter had a world-view: Every place on earth echoed with sound worthy of being interpreted in and as music. Ralph Towner, Collin Walcott and Glen Moore were already interpreting just that with guitar, piano, sitar and acoustic bass. In the Consort of early-1970 this combination added spectacular tone and color to what McCandless' oboe, the newly acquired David Darling's cello and Paul Winter's own saxophones, were already bringing to the sound stage and to record. The results were cataclysmic and the Paul Winter Consort began to indulge in the kind of ensemble improvisation that shaped up into a veritable musical force of nature!

In the year or so that Towner, Moore, Walcott and McCandless worked with the Consort, they toured breathlessly and recorded as well. It was not long before the sparks that flew between the four musicians ignited a plethora of ideas and concepts, the most predominant of which appeared to be the echoes of sounds heard on a rarified plane somewhere west of the sun, east of the moon, delivered in sketches of a musical journey that circumnavigated the orient to the occident.

Thus Oregon was born - in a palette of sound that reflected more than the folklore of rural America and the jazz of smoky, downtown lofts and bars. More than the rich mythology of European legend and the harmonic gymnastics of Continental classicismï More than the sum of Indian harmonic and rhythmic pyrotechnics, but a music also imbued with a certain 'alegria' and a sense of what is best described as 'saudades' by my Brazilian sensibility. But this is no ordinary fusion of global musical cultures. It was as if the music of Oregon was derived from astral traveling! After all, how else could so many vivid pictures be sketched and painted simply by plucking the strings of a guitar, or running the fingers on the keyboard of a piano; by bowing or plucking the strings of an ancient bass violin, or by blowing an oboe and an English horn and (sometimes) a bass clarinet, or plucking the strings of a sitar and by painting patterns on a tabla, a pakhawaj or a dulcimer and a myriad other percussion instruments from the Middle Ages to the age of the mainframe? Many musicians had transmigrated from plane to plane, but few could tell the story, much less create the sketches so vividly that you yourself could be transported to another world as you are drawn into the wet paint, so to speak - created by a musical sketch by Oregon.


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