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Oregon

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Biography

Oregon emerged in 1970 as a splinter band from the Paul Winter Consort. Its members each had experience in jazz, classical, and a variety of non-western musical styles, and were also multi-instrumentalists. Ralph Towner played standard acoustic and 12-string guitar, piano, a variety of electric keyboards, trumpet, and flügelhorn. Paul McCandless' instrumental arsenal included oboe, English horn, soprano sax, bass clarinet, the musette, and tin flute. Collin Walcott handled most of the percussion duties on tabla and various African and Latin rhythm instruments plus sitar, dulcimer, clarinet, and violin. Glen Moore was the bassist, and also played clarinet, viola, piano, and flute. They suffered some snide comments, like labeling them the "Modern Jazz Quartet of the '70s" or "a white, European imitation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago." In truth, they were an excellent ensemble playing a hybrid style that wasn't exactly jazz, and certainly wasn't rock, but liberally quoted and borrowed from free jazz, Asian, African, European, and pop music sources. They began on Vanguard, later moved to ECM, and also issued albums on Elektra and Portrait/Columbia. Walcott's death in a car accident in 1984 was a major blow but he was eventually replaced by percussionist Trilok Gurtu. Oregon has worked at times with some guest players (including Zbigniew Seifert, Nancy King, and Elvin Jones). Their Elektra albums were reissued on CD by Discover, while their Vanguard and ECM albums have also been remastered and re-released on compact disc. Mark Walker, a master percussionist and drummer from Chicago, eventually replaced Gurtu, and became a full-time member of Oregon in 1996. Beginning with 2005's Prime, Oregon recorded for the CAM Jazz label. Family Tree appeared in 2012, after which bassist Moore parted ways with the band. He was replaced by Paolino Dalla Porta, who was on board for 2017's Lantern. ~ Ron Wynn
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