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In the 70’s I became aware of the Paul Winter Consort. Little did I know that the core group in that band would later split off and become Oregon. When I was building my record label in the early 80’s, I wanted to fashion it after the ECM simplistic style of jackets, Teldec vinyl, and recording aspects, as I had become a huge fan of Oregon and all other things ECM at the time.
In the 80's and 90's, I recoded on the Narada label, and several times a year, they released compilations on top of us doing our solo projects. One on the table was called ‘Wind & Reed’. I was to compose and record my piece at my good friend, Teja Bell’s Samurai Sound studio in Petaluma, and I had to bring in a wind player. When Nancy Rumbel couldn’t make the date, Teja suggested Paul McCandless. “PAUL MCCANDLESS, I asked? You know him?!?!"
Little did Paul or I know, but that session would take us down many roads, tours, and records together over the next 25+ years. When our wives met, they looked like sisters, their families came from the same area in Russia, they both married crazed musicians, and needless to say, we all clicked. Eventually we would do some vacations together and stay at each other’s house regularly. My wife Esther was one of the tight circle of women who were with Robin when she passed years later.
Paul and I were a duet doing my music for years, touring wherever the dates took us, but most of all, we did a lot of recordings together at my studio, Laughing Coyote, in Redwood Valley. We enjoyed a lot of good wine and food, played tons of music, and laughed a whole lot. We did many, many records for Northsound Music Group. He was a sideman on a dozen or so of my client’s records. He brought in projects he was working on, and each and every time, the Paul McCandless sound was what everyone was wowed about.
One of the more interesting times we had together was playing Lupin Naturist Club in Los Gatos, the oldest nudist colony in California. Yes, I was naked sitting at the piano, and Paul was butt naked standing and ripping through tunes for two hours to an all naked audience. At one point, I asked him (in front of the crowd), ‘What’s it like to play nude, Paul?’ You could hear a pin drop. He replied, ‘You’re the one sitting down and I’m up here dangling everywhere, so shut up!’ The crowd roared, and we were asked back to play several more times alongside hot tubs, massages, great food….what wasn’t not to like? When he returned to the road, he told the band and the road crew what he had just done, and that became one of the most unusual gig stories for quite a while.
One aspect of Paul that, to this day, still impresses me is that he is a very humble, easy going guy who likes to play, with just about everyone and anyone. After his wife, Robin, passed away, and he moved within a mile of me, musicians everywhere in the valley would ask him to play with them, and he would show up everywhere and give it his all. The week before he would be doing a sold out tour of Europe with Oregon or siding with some superstar group or musician, and the next week, he'd be playing here with a local garage band, blowing the roof off the gig.
I eventually understood this aspect of him, as his father was the band teacher at his high school. Of course, the teacher’s son had to (1) out-play everyone, (2) play at any and every chance he was told to, (3) have no attitude (his father could be an intense man and The Teacher), and (4) be able to read, play, and improvise on whatever was in front of him. As hard as that was for a teenage boy, it instilled in him his lifelong love of music, amazing playing ability in any style, and humbly adapting to every musical environment in which he found himself. A rare gift to witness and be a part of.
One of the most cherished gigs of my life (not the largest or best paying), was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas: a duet with Paul. It was a fund-raiser for some local charity done in a local doctor's mega home. With 100 people seated throughout the house, Paul and I locked for 90 minutes and played like it was our last gig. Between us, we might have missed two notes, since we had been playing a lot together at that time. Afterward, the applause and the accolades didn’t matter to us. They were drowned out by the experience he and I had just had, staring at each other across notes….totally one in the music and with one another. A gift to this day.
I call myself a lucky person to have had so many musical moments with Paul. He taught me a lot in the studio and on stage and was always gracious with his talent, time, and general love of music. I and my music are better for having him in my life.
One of the great joys of my musical life has been playing with Paul McCandless. I was a huge fan of his playing and writing with Oregon, and naturally, beyond thrilled when I first got a chance to play with him in a group led by guitarist Danny Heines. I clearly remember how inspiring it was to be on stage with him for the first time and to hear that magnificent, soaring sound that is uniquely Paul McCandless.
I had a terrible headache that night, but the performance went surprisingly well. I remember Paul commenting that maybe I should play with a headache all the time.
I was fortunate enough to be in Paul’s Bay Area band in the early Nineties, although I had to step aside (for some guy named Lyle Mays) when Paul recorded his wonderful album “Premonition”. I have always appreciated that Paul still included me on the album, having me do keyboard overdubs that I suspect he could have done himself!
It has always been a joy to play with him, no matter the style, time signature, or the instrument. My only regret is that Paul never took my suggestion during the heyday of Kenny G, to call himself “Pauly Mac”. I am sure he would have achieved Jazz Pop Super Star status, if only I could have convinced him!
Will always treasure my memories of hanging and playing with Paul, and hope to make some new memories in the future!
The first time I heard Paul McCandless was the moment I discovered a special love for the sound of the oboe. Having been immersed in jazz during my early years, I was pretty much a stranger to its reedy timbre. It was a revelation that night in Germany, when my band shared a concert with “Oregon,” Paul’s signature ensemble for many decades. From that time on, I treasured every opportunity for our paths to cross and have another chance to experience his beautiful musicianship in person. I also began to seek out recordings of important classical oboists, but I’ll always remember that Paul McCandless was my first. He’s still in a class by himself for bringing the oboe to the jazz world.
Of course, Paul also plays other woodwind instruments and he has built a great career with connections extending to musical genres besides jazz, namely classical and new age. The range of his many Grammy wins shows his diversity and he continues to perform world-wide in a variety of musical settings. One thing Paul and I share is that we both play somewhat obscure instruments. The vibraphone is mostly found in jazz settings and the oboe is usually relegated to orchestral music. When you play a less familiar instrument, you become by necessity a pioneer, forever introducing your instrument to new listeners.
I’ll always cherish a 2015 concert we shared in Stuttgart, Germany. The occasion was to honor musician and friend Eberhard Weber with an all-star gathering that included Paul and guitarist Ralph Towner from Oregon, guitarist Pat Metheny, saxophonist Jan Gabarek, composer Michael Gibbs, and the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra. We were together for several days of rehearsals and two sold-out concerts that was also a heartfelt reunion of old friends making memorable music. That was my last recording project before I retired (Homage a Eberhard Weber - ECM Records), and it was a joyous occasion for us all. As for the oboe, for me the past fifty years of oboe history has been defined by the legendary Heinz Holliger and Paul McCandless, each bringing the oboe to countless appreciative audiences.
I grew up in the Kansas City area. My last year of high school was when my musical interests were headed in a jazz direction. There was so much happening at that time, late ‘70s were talking here. I was diving into such a diversity of music, from Weather Report to Charlie Parker to Miles to ECM artists, you name it. Among all of these were Oregon records. I was immediately drawn their music… the diversity of the compositions and the versatility of the musicians themselves playing so many instruments. But mostly that their sound was instantly recognizable no matter what type of tune was being played, whether it be folk-like or classically influenced or free. Every musician in the band was a joy to listen to as they complimented one another effortlessly. I particularly remember being repeatedly amazed with Paul McCandless’ solos in that they had such a compositional structure to them. Full of melody, forward motion and intention. It was something I aspired to myself. still do.
Fast forward to the late 80s and early 90s. I moved from KC to the SF Bay Area for a few years. In my time there, I was fortunate to be a part of several wonderful bands. One I was especially excited about was playing in Paul McCandless’ band. I remember going over to Paul’s to play through some of his music with a couple of musician friends. It was a bit surreal for me to hear these sounds and ideas being played that were so familiar to my ears but were happening in the moment.
Paul’s band played several gigs around the Bay Area and later I did some touring in Canada with Paul and a rhythm section from Montana. In late 1991, Paul asked me to play guitar on his record Premonition. To say I was excited would be an understatement. He sent the charts to me (snail mail hard copies, pre-pdf) and along with some digitized demos of the forms, I began to shed what I still consider to be some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever had the honor to be part of. Paul’s previous record Heresay is one of my favorite records. I sit here trying to think of words to express the depth and beauty of his compositions and how they unfold, but best to just go listen to them, you’ll hear it all for yourself.
I’ll always be deeply grateful for the time I got to play with Paul, not to mention the friendship we struck up in the process. Sure hope we have a chance to play together again someday.
Everything I have ever done with Paul McCandless has been just sublime, and I have the upmost love and respect and admiration for him as a human being and as a musician. I hope to see him and play with him many more times.
Paul McCandless came into my life and musical world over 40 years ago. We first made music together at Naropa Institute in 1979, when he was there with Oregon teaching and performing. Later, I was honored to be asked to sing on his album, “Navigator”, so many years ago.
My most current memory and proof of our musical compatibility is of a concert I did in the Bay area. Art Lande was playing piano and he had mentioned to Paul that I would be there. Paul surprised me by driving down. He "sat in " for the whole concert. It was magical. I was so moved.
Paul is a virtuoso, but, even more importantly, a passionate artist.
He has made a wonderful and important contribution to the music world. I look forward to our continuing collaborations!
I began to play guitar when I was ten years old, charmed mostly by rock and pop music: Jimi Hendrix, Beatles, Rolling Stones and progressive music bands from England. Some years later, I started to play jazz and classical music, listening also to ethnic and contemporary music.
And then I discovered Oregon. I was overwhelmed by their original sound and by their compositions. I had never heard such a perfect mixture of sounds: oboe, classical guitar, bass, and tabla. They played new, original, and beautiful music that blended all the musical languages that I loved……and still love.
Most of the originality of the Oregon sound is due by Paul’s voice in the band, not only oboe but also soprano sax, English horn, bass clarinet, and flutes. With his technical skills and virtuosity, Paul is an innovator in the history of the oboe, taking it beyond the borders of classical music towards new languages.
After twelve years as a guitar player, I began to play acoustic bass, mostly in jazz and improvised music. And in 2000, the producer of the Italian record label Egea invited me and my guitarist friend Bebo Ferra to record a disc of our original compositions, and he suggested that we invite an international guest to play.
Our music was a mix of jazz, ethnic Mediterranean, and classical flavours created by acoustic instruments. I immediately thought to call Paul, because he was obviously the most suitable musician to play our music.
A few months later, I was lucky to met and play with Paul. As well as being a great musician, he turned out to be a special and wonderful person, full of enthusiasm and empathy in sharing music with two unknown Italian musicians.
I remember his great professionalism and humility in approaching the music. Before recording the tracks, he “spelled” every chord of the songs with his instruments, searching for the right scale or mood to use during the improvisation. Furthermore, with his large palette of instuments, he enriched the record with nuances and beautiful colours. The result of all this was the record “Isole”.
Later on, I had other chances to play on tour with Paul and to record again with him on another album of mine, “La Ballata di Domenica”, written for the soundtrack of the movie “Domenica”, by Wilma Labate. And thanks to Paul, this is one of my favourite recordings as a leader.
Then a great shock happened in March, 2015. Ralph Towner called to ask if I would be free in April for a European tour of twenty days with Oregon. Ralph told me that Glen Moore had left the band, and they were in need of a new bassist for the next tour.
At first, I thought the call was a joke, and I couldn’t believe it was true! I was so honoured to play with one of the bands of my dreams. At the same time, it was more than a little scary to take on the responsibilities of replacing a pillar of Oregon and such a great bass player as Glen. But from the first concert on, I felt at home with them, thanks to the human and musical support and empathy that Paul and Ralph and Mark provided to me.
With Oregon, I have played about seventy concerts and made one nice album, ”Lantern.” Every night, it was a great joy and pleasure to share the stage with these great musicians. And during our tours, I had the chance to appreciate Paul even more, not only as a great musician but also as a sweet, beautiful person, full of humor and attention to others.
I was a high school student in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late ‘60s, and with family life in disarray—my single mother was having serious health issues and my siblings were off at college—I was packed off by my uncle in the Fall of 1969 to Mt. Hermon Prep School in Massachusetts for my senior year with the hope that I might better focus on school and get serious about going to college. That turned out to be somewhat of a fiasco—I only made it through Christmas—but the signature event of my brief tenure there was seeing a concert by the Paul Winter Consort at the neighboring prep school for girls in Northfield. That was where I first heard Paul McCandless and guitarist Ralph Towner, and that turned out to be a seminal experience in my own development as a guitar player and musician.
I subsequently became an avid follower of the group Oregon as well as many of the other amazing musicians on the ECM label. So, I was already a Paul McCandless fan when we first met to record a duo arrangement of Satie’s 3rd Gymnopédie for the Windham Hill sampler CD, The Impressionists, at Different Fur studio in San Francisco in 1992. I confess that I was a bit intimidated by Paul as he was much more experienced musician than I, especially in working with other musicians—my career until then was almost exclusively performing solo—and yet I was the one who brought the arrangement to the project and I was ultimately responsible for how the session turned out. Fortunately for me, Paul didn’t need any direction, and if anything, it was his experience and understanding of how that music should be played that helped get me through that session.
In 1994, my wife Alison and I moved from San Francisco to the relative wilderness of Mendocino County. She grew up in London, we met in San Francisco, and after visiting some cousins in Redwood Valley, we very spontaneously decided to buy a house and some land there and go live in the country. To my surprise and delight, some years later, Paul showed up in RV to do some recording at Spencer Brewer’s Laughing Coyote Studio and, even more surprisingly, he decided to stick around after meeting his future wife Joan.
When I arrived in Mendocino County, I quickly learned that I had to leave the county to make any money, but I also learned that the locals will hit you up to play for free for an endless schedule of fundraising events. Paul was such a good sport about accepting that fact and we soon had him playing for all kinds of good causes. I had been music director for a Winter Concert series benefiting the children’s scholarship fund for S.P.A.C.E. (School for Performing Arts and Cultural Education), and he graciously joined us for a number of those events at the Mendocino College theater in Ukiah. For one of those concerts, we had invited guitarist/singer Zé Manel (originally from Guinea Bissau in West Africa) and his band up from the East Bay and I had assured him in advance that we had a pretty good sax player who could round out his horn section for the gig. At the day-of-gig rehearsal/soundcheck, I watched as Zé’s horn players’ eyes got really big as soon as they heard Paul start playing and suddenly realized that here, deep in the hinterland, that yes, the Paul McCandless was going to be part of the horn section. They were totally blown away and we had a great show!
For a time, we could muster a solid Redwood Valley band with Paul and I, pianist Spencer Brewer and Grammy Award winning bassist Todd Phillips—not bad for some obscure hideaway in Northern California. Todd had also been lured up here because Spencer had landed a gig producing anonymous “concept” recordings for a budget label called NorthSound that specialized in ambient recordings sold through the “alternative” market—gift shops, drug stores and even zoos! We were making them by the dozens and the drill was to listen to the approximately 50 minutes of nature sounds they had put on a tape and then write and arrange the requisite number of tracks—they all had to be between three and a half to four minutes long to minimize mechanical royalty payments—and then record them all within a day. Paul and I were recording one of these albums with guitarist Teja Bell and we quickly established a methodology of sending one person to the piano in Spencer’s living room to write the next song while the other two were putting one down on tape. It was a strictly mercenary, assembly line endeavor and I think Paul summed it all up by saying “Your song in an hour, or your money back!”
But I think the most novel gig that Paul and I ever did was for a mushroom and wine pairing event at Rivino Winery as part of the annual Mushroom and Wine Festival that takes place in Mendocino County every Fall. They were pairing four wines—two whites and two reds—in order from lightest to heaviest, with some truly extraordinary vegan mushroom dishes prepared by the chef from the Stanford Inn. We were meant to play a single piece to accompany each pairing, and somehow, Paul and I got it into our heads that we should attempt to match the tenor and weight of the music with each wine/mushroom pairing.
I think we started off with a lighthearted Irish jig with Paul on penny whistle and myself on high-strung guitar (pitched higher than a normal guitar) to pair with the Sauvignon Blanc, for which, we received polite applause from the mostly attentive audience. Next, for the Chardonnay, we played a Bill Evans waltz with Paul on soprano sax and me on nylon string classical. I should mention that this was the winemaker’s house, not a very large space, but it was packed with people eating and drinking, and the volume of background noise was, like the wines, gradually gaining heft with each pairing. Next up was a blues with Paul on tenor, and I picked up a “darker” sounding guitar while the guests enjoyed a medium bodied red. By then, we had been reduced to background music and at end of that tune, we received only a slight blip of recognition from what had become a pretty raucous crowd. Clearly, we were no longer the main focus of attention.
For the finale, the big bodied Cabernet, Paul brought out the bass clarinet paired with my baritone guitar and we played Monk’s Little Rootie Tootie. By then, we could hardly hear ourselves over the roar of the well lubricated mob—I remember seeing visible sound pressure palpitations of the many glass surfaces in the room—-and when we finished that tune, I don’t think anyone even noticed. It’s funny how what would have been considered a true nightmare gig if we were actually out on the road getting paid decently had simply become just a friendly, but rowdy party. We quickly put down our instruments and proceeded to sample the wines, the mushrooms and join the chaos. Just another night in Mendonesia.
I’ve had the honor and privilege of collaborating with Paul McCandless for nearly 30 years – in my band and in other ensembles. Paul’s unmistakable sound on his vast array of instruments – oboe, English horn, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, and pennywhistles – has uplifted the spirit and intensified the impact of every performance and recording in which we have shared musical space. His professionalism and unwavering commitment to excellence permeate every environment, and his humility and good nature make the experiences that much sweeter. I am eternally grateful.
There are some musicians whose sound becomes so intertwined with your own listening history, that it’s hard to imagine life without them. Paul McCandless is such a musician. Having first SEEN him on the first Paul Winter Consort album (Paul was pictured in the group photo even though Gene Murrow played English horn on the recording), I thereafter saw Paul whenever I heard the oboe or English horn in any non-classical setting. Paul was the first improvising oboist to come along since Yusef Lateef as far as I knew, and I was immediately hooked on his sound and playing ethos. If the purpose of music is to aspire to something greater than ourselves then Paul McCandless is the standard bearer for this calling. He never fails to lift any piece of music to its highest-possible place. He is a consummate musician.
His artistry graces an album I was fortunate enough to produce, “October Child” by singer Anne Hills, the music composed by Michael Smith and arranged by Vince Mendoza (one of his early efforts). Paul is, simply, outstanding. As he has been on any collaboration we shared (we played together in Jaco Pastorius’ Word of Mouth Big Band as well as on a recording by Russian composer and pianist Yelena Eckemoff)
My professor from college, George Gaber, always spoke of one student with more admiration and pride in his voice than any other, and his name was Colin Wolcott. Colin played alongside Paul in the Consort until they formed their own musical collective known as “Oregon.” Despite being named for a state in the northwestern part of the USA, “Oregon” provided a compass that directed us to all points of the globe wherever a good musical rhythm, idea or thought might be found.
Paul carries on, and we are all the better for it.
Paul McCandless. Such a great musician. He has his own distinctive voice, plays a large variety of woodwind instruments, saxes, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn, etc. He always creates beautiful melodies in his solos and interacts with any emotion in the band's music.
Years ago, I listened to Oregon constantly, including playing one of their records every morning for years. I saw the band in concert in Germany, playing beautiful music for 2,000 people. And I saw them at “McCabe's Guitar Shop” in Los Angeles, playing for only 100 people. What a great band.
After I moved to Healdsburg, I was playing with the flutist George Husaruk at a Farmers Market in Redwood Valley, when George asked if I know Paul. “THE Paul McCandless from Oregon?”, I asked. Then George pointed to Paul on a bicycle, arriving to do some shopping!
After we chatted, Paul disappeared and later returned with his horn to sit in with us. WOW. We played a set, and the rest is history.
I have now been playing with Paul for about ten years and have the occasional pleasure of hosting him at our house for a rehearsal or a dinner. We have performed at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, in jazz clubs, in outdoor concerts, at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance, at the Occidental Arts Alliance, and in other settings, including some duo gigs. I still marvel sometimes that I have had so many wonderful opportunities with him.
Paul McCandless performed on two of my CDs: "Star Dance” and “Waterfall Rainbow”, both released by Inner City Records in the mid-70’s. Paul possesses a great musical mind, combined with great technique. With this combination, the musicians he plays with receive compassion combined with 100% dedication to the music of the moment. The audiences are blessed as the recipients of his great gifts. His attributes combine, transcending technique, creating music void of worldly intellectualism and fluff.
I first encountered the Paul Winter Consort when I was a senior in high school. As a young cellist my ear was drawn to the sound of the cello in a rhythmic, contemporary setting, and I couldn’t believe I was hearing it on AM radio – the song “Icarus.” As I looked into the Consort, a unique assortment of instruments and improvisor/composers, I felt the excitement of sensing a change coming, a musical world where genres could blend, where boundaries faded, and where a contemporary statement could be articulated melding the beauty of “classical” acoustic instruments with the sensibility of jazz, classical, and the world’s folk musics.
As I listened deeper I came to dwell on the sound of the oboe and the English horn in the group, sounds that I loved from symphonic repertoire but had never encountered in jazz. Who is that player?
I learned to follow the sound of this artist, Paul McCandless, from his recordings with Paul Winter to the astounding creative innovations of Oregon, to his own solo projects. “McC.“ became the model musician for me, an artist who is fully accomplished in the classical world having mastered two of the most challenging double reed instruments, and a creative artist with a powerful sense of individuality combined with a musical vocabulary that integrates the history of global music with groundbreaking invention.
In a development I could have never anticipated, I was invited to join the Paul Winter Consort upon graduating from music school in 1978. Though McC had by then moved on to a full time commitment to Oregon, the legacy and repertoire he co-created in the Consort continued with oboe/English horn player Nancy Rumbel, and it was a great joy to explore the sounds of cello and oboe in the Consort’s improvisational play and arrangements.
McC’s artistry has continued to evolve, and he still epitomizes for me the contemporary musician, an elegant integration of a deep and spiritual artist, complete mastery of the world’s harmonic and rhythmic languages, and a creativity that unites everything he knows with a profound sense of ease and flow.
Over the past 15 or so years, McC has performed with the Consort on a handful of international tours as well as our annual events at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. In each instance, all the qualities named above have lifted our concerts and our interactions to a higher plane. In fact it seems like we all become better musicians when he walks on stage!
A paradigm-shifting artist, a sensitive colleague, a being who appears comfortable with stillness, and a player who burns down the house night after night. Bravo, Paul McCandless, and thank you for being an inspiring role model to me, and many thousands of musicians the world over.
Probably the most earnest, supportive, and talented musician I’ve ever toured with. I miss the days of driving down the road with Paul, riding shotgun, helping to keep my brain busy and awake during discussions of past gigs, road food, and the diatonic nature of my banjo tunes! Ha! Miss you Paul, let’s play again soon!
I first met Paul in the 90’s at a jam session with Kit Walker and Kai Eckhardt at Kit’s home in Fairfax. Since Paul was a living legend at the time, I was feeling rather nervous, to say the least! But his calm manner and wide-open musical heart put me at ease right away.
“Three of Worlds” formed out of that session and we went on to gig for a few years after that. Since those days I’ve had the pleasure to record and perform with this master with the Art Lande/ Paul McCandless Quartet with Peter Barshay as well as with my own group “Ratatet”.
The thing about Paul you get right away is his deep musical integrity combined with his humility. He is generous and gracious to those of us who haven’t reached his heights, and that is inspiring. Thank you, Paul, for the many ways in which you inspire us all! It’s been an honor to know and work with you!
Like many of my friends in college, I was a fan of the world/jazz explorations of Oregon. By the time I heard Paul McCandless playing with Paul Winter, I had released 20 of my own albums and wanted very much to produce an album featuring Paul McCandless.
I had to wait years for our schedules to coordinate in 2002, when he joined me in Banquet Studios. In addition to composing, performing, and arranging, my role as producer, whether for a solo project or with another musician, is to create an environment in which sacred sound can emerge. Paul intuitively tapped into that vibe from the first notes, as if we’d been playing together for years.
Our session provided a variety of contexts, from duo to lush ensemble orchestrations, acoustic and electric, New Age/ambient to groovacious contemporary world. I suggested a few themes to Paul, but what you hear is all him, improvised in the moment. Beyond just playing the notes, Paul ‘became’ the music, allowing Spirit to flow freely.
Throughout the entire day, Paul was at home with and endlessly creative in every context, one right after the other. Paul tapped into the vibe I created and took it to places I had only dreamed about. He made the ineffable, audible.
Paul’s oboe solo on DEEP PEACE is one of the most magnificent, impeccably “composed/improvised” solos I have ever heard. It ranks with the best ever recorded in the genre. Paul belongs in that elite echelon of jazz, world, and New Age music who do such things.
As the groove built, Paul took flight above the trance-inducing conga and bass. When he took it up an octave, midway through the track, Warren Kahn (engineer) and I looked at each other, barely breathing, not wanting to break the spell.
We knew that something very special was taking place. Sacred sound.
Off mic, we said simultaneously, “Don’t stop, man! Keep going. This is fantastic.”
And Paul kept going. One brilliant arc of melody after another, building to a spiritual climax.
Paul had tapped into the same musical vision I had and then proceeded to take it to a higher dimension.
The sessions with Paul yielded some of the best music I’ve recorded in all my 45 years of recording, eventually released in 2002 as PERFECT ALIGNMENT.
Years later, I was revisiting the track to overdub additional keyboard textures. As we built the mix and muted the rhythm, the control room suddenly felt holy, like a temple of sound. In this timeless ambience, Paul’s lyricism illuminated the space between the tones, climbing higher and higher until resolving into a mindful state of deep peace.
Although I thought I had finished recording my solo Rhodes electric piano meditation album, DEEP ALPHA, I felt inspired at the last minute to include the updated mix with Paul.
In 2012, that record, DEEP ALPHA, became the first GRAMMY nominee to feature brainwave entrainment. Would it have been nominated if I hadn’t added the track with Paul? Who knows? I believe it blew a lot of GRAMMY voters’ minds. It has been on Billboard’s Top Ten New Age chart for more than 40 weeks. And as a result, many people have been turned on to the genius of Paul McCandless.
Several other tracks from the original session have been among my personal all-time favorites. Paul outshines Yusef Lateef on a dervish-inspired “Blue Nile (Blues)”.
On “Body Language”, we venture into smooth jazz territory, riding over Marc Van Wageningen’s in-the-pocket bass. Paul’s entire solo is a gas, but pay particular attention to his effortless and eloquent self-referential solo beginning around 3 minutes in. I contend that it equals or surpasses any solo I’ve heard from other well-known sax players.
Six years later, I included this track on “Drive Time Rx”, a recording featuring subliminal affirmations to keep drivers relaxed yet alert. When ABCNews.com reviewed the album and gave it national exposure, I was delighted that Paul’s genius was again being appreciated.
On my first date with a woman I had just met while on tour in Florida, this CD was playing as we drove to dinner. Although she’s not a professional, she began to sing along, using Paul’s sax as her instrumental karaoke. She won my heart by the end of the song.
In the studio, Paul was always mellow, amenable to try a wide range of ideas. I invited him to join me again at Banquet Studios in January 2020. Once again, Paul’s demeanor and masterful musicianship elevated several mystical Middle Eastern arrangements with his bass clarinet, and his soprano sax took flight on several jazz/rock/funk tracks. They’ll be featured on an upcoming album scheduled for release in for 2021.
There are few things in life that are truly unique, individual and inspirational at the same time. My first experience hearing Paul was hearing the tune Icarus and Paul’s high, soaring oboe lines over the guitar of Ralph Towner and the rhythm section of Colin Walcott and Glen Moore. It was truly breathtaking in confluence in style and spirit-a totally new thing. I never thought I’d meet the man-and for sure never thought I’d be working with him.
He first heard of me through guitarist Steve Cardenas-who used to play in his band. Steve recorded with me on an album called The Last Romantics (and the follow up Astro Boy Blues). Steve (thank you STEVE!) played the cassette on a tour bus while touring with Paul McCandless. Paul at some point in the next year invited me to record some music on a project he was involved in. So I got to start to know him just a bit-but it got better. Through Paul McCandless-I have a career as a double reed artist in the jazz and fusion world. Paul introduced me to people at the International Double Reed Society and was instrumental (no pun intended) in getting me invited to Rotterdam in 1995 to the IDRS convention there where I got to play jazz with a European rhythm section. That was just the start. One day in 1998-he invited me to sit in with the Bela Fleck and the Flecktones group. I sat in on a blues and one of their other tunes-nervous but thankful for the chance. The next year they came through I sat in again.
Finally-in 2000 I was invited to record with Bela and Paul on Bela’s album OUTBOUND-and then we were touring the album in 2000 and 2001. Paul was the reason this all happened and I will forever be his debt and I thank him so very much for helping me out.
Paul’s sound and music represents a world of possibility. He has so much to do with the fusion of classical and jazz music-and that term ‘new age’ music but without the saccharine overkill used for marketing purposes that drains the music of its power. He brings what the world needs-high end conversations between styles and boundaries. I last got to see him on a tour we both were on in Brazil playing at a jazz festival. He is musically the truth of the matter. I still listen to his oboe playing on Oregon’s album LIVE IN MOSCOW on one of my favorite tracks-The Templars. He is one of my musical heroes and represents something that should be preserved and curated for all future generations. People should be putting him and Oregon in a Hall of Fame.
As one has to continually categorize music in order to have a notch of recognition at the table of public attention (is it jazz? Pop? light classical fusion? new age?) I don’t really care how you categorize it. It is MUSIC-solid all the way through and Paul is at the head of the table to me as an innovator and creator of a style of playing.
Well it’s been many, many years that you have been a part of my life and music!
Since the early ‘70’s - seeing Oregon for the first time at Keystone Korner in SF. That night changed my life! Music that I had only dreamed of was being played right before my eyes. It was a defining moment for me.
I remember being on tour - in the late ‘70’s I think - arriving a day early in Athens to play the Acropolis. And that night, Oregon was playing there! A transcendent moment under the stars in that iconic setting, and the most beautiful music!
After Art Lande introduced us in Portland when you were sitting in, I started inviting you to play with me, and we made some wonderful music.
I remember a long session with you, me, and Charlie Haden. And the fantastic contributions you made to my first Virgin album.
You have a unique and wonderful voice, my friend. Everything I’ve ever heard you play has excited me and made me want to hear more. Your contribution to the world’s musical culture is vast and unforgettable!
With the utmost admiration,
All of us use the word “great” in daily life, and it is perhaps one of those words that has lost a little of its depth of meaning. But when using it in connection with Paul McCandless – a man considerably above the norm, whose ability, quality, an eminence are not found in most - you begin to re-recognize the value of the word.
I am perhaps best defined as the accidental drummer on “Premonition”, Paul’s solo recording - a recording experience that changed me forever.
The outstanding drummer, Mark Walker, was rehearsed and scheduled to do the session for Paul. But just days before the scheduled date, Mark broke his arm. I was relaxing at home when I got the call: “What are you doing next Tuesday?”
Like the first read of a great movie script, as I listened to the recordings of the rehearsals Mark had played, I immediately recognized the importance of the work and realized how I would be participating in a project that was really special – again, something considerably above the norm.
The Great Paul McCandless had composed an awesome group of songs, (yes, you guessed it) “great” pieces of music. Every musician would have to raise up his or her game to do them justice, from intro to outro, without losing focus, or they would be left behind.
Paul surrounded himself with an amazing production team, lead by Steve Rodby, which allowed Paul to be woodwind-focused, because even he had to be at one with the music, so the rest of us could follow his musical lead.
One of the great learning experiences for me during the recording of “Premonition” was defining the emotional content of each piece and performing the emotional content so was no question of my intent.
I came from the school of “rehearse and set yourself up” for minimal recording time in the studio. In other words, “Time Is Money”. Prior to recording Premonition, I was the proud one to be able to get a satisfactory performance in 1 to 2 takes.
But on Premonition, there would be no settling for “satisfactory”. Our takes hit double digits, and the discovery for me was the wonderful results of that effort! We were able to fellowship with the music by performing it multiple times. The freedom I discovered, as I grew to know its peaks and valleys and could better define its emotional content, was a fabulous approach to recording.
I’m blessed to say, “I was there!!”
I was a participant in the recording with one of the Greats, Paul McCandless.
Paul’s musical mastery has graced two of Banquet Studios historical locations over a number of decades.
As a producer, whenever I wanted that magical combination of classical, jazz, new age, and an additional ingredient of Paul’s own making, I jumped at the chance to get him in the studio, knowing we would be in for a treat when the moment came to combine, breath, lips and musical transcendence.
We were never disappointed.
As an artist, I was treated to Paul’s unique ability to know just what the music was wanting, not too much, and not too little.
Add Paul’s wonderful way of partnering, with his kind personality, flexibility, and commitment to serve what the project required, putting ego aside, and it was always a pleasure!
And he’s not done yet.
Looking forward to more with Paul, whenever the stars align.
Thanks for all the great music so far! More to come.
So, it’s an afternoon in 1974 and the phone rings on Banar Street in Berkeley. It’s Paul and Glen Moore saying they want to meet me because they liked my record with Jan Garbarek that they heard on the plane coming back from an Oregon tour in Europe. They are in Oakland. I say, “Bring your instruments and come right over. The door will be open.” I just started playing the drums and they soon show up. We play for a couple of hours. Then we say “Hi.”
Now it’s 46 years later-we are lifelong friends. Paul is like my little brother, 2 months younger and slightly more well behaved. He’s a “gamer” like me, always ready to do one more thing (Do we have time before the gig? Hell, let’s just do it!) Leonardo di Caprio pretending to be an airline pilot just before the Yoshi’s gig, or play one more chorus, or one more encore, or cook spaghetti with chicken at Juliana’s at 1:00 am. Why not?
Sometimes our pal Lum Sum Dhat (initials) or our trippy friend even came with us. There was a Boulder duo concert at PAC (Naropa) where folks said they experienced every part of our friendship in the concert (didn’t really notice the music), or at the ocean on the Millennium at midnight. Paul playing us the Eddie Money rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”, solo soprano sax, for an hour in a different key for each phrase at Cookie’s New Year’s party. The Eddie Money approach came from Tandy Beal’s dance company that Paul played with for years.
We somehow got to an LA Clippers game just in time to hear a remarkable, wildly incompetent National Anthem being sung a capella with the last note of each phrase being random and out of tune, generating a new key for the next phrase. Paul and I incorporated this into our unruly “approach” to our next improvisation.
Whether it was a hike into the flatirons in Boulder, Colorado, or a Mets game at Shea Stadium where a brawl broke out in our section between Phillies and Mets fans (our lives were in danger), we always found room for excursions, escapades, late night dinners, and desserts. Paul likes when I have strawberries with my vanilla ice cream.
During the gigs, it was no different. We conned an adoring Santa Barbara audience by playing without dissonance for 45 minutes and then had Paul's friends run down the aisle of the church demanding that we create a ridiculous wedding ceremony for them, with Paul as the minister. Or when half the stage is for playing and half the stage is the living room (for when you needed a break to sit on a couch and watch TV). Or an evening at the Great American Music Hall with a cast of thousands. I remember Paul dancing wildly while he played in Switzerland at Six and Rentals, breaking his fast, and bringing back the delicious rosti and kottelets from this incredible restaurant in town. (Eat, little brother! Poor guy!)
A lusty, pedal-to-the-metal, sweet, sumptuous life we’ve shared all over the planet for 46 years. Mexico (I was stomach-sick the whole time). Luculum, Germany, with Dave Samuels. It was raining, and they gave me a horrible Casio electric piano. Seattle: 4 nights of extreme states (one night beauty, one mysterious, one wild one?). “Ionia” in Switzerland with Dave Peterson and Dave Coleman, where, rushing to the gig (late) in the “Ionini Van”, no one paid for the gas we took. Sirens, cops stop us on the highway. “Do you have free gasoline in your country?” We’re so sorry. I thought Paul paid. He thought Dave paid. We were sorry. We didn’t want to disappoint the audience by being late. So the cops said, “Give us the money. We’ll go back and pay. You hurry on and don’t disappoint your audience.” Glorious Switzerland.
We played in so many great bands. Paul is the premier oboe, English horn, and bass clarinet player in the history of jazz (for me). His soprano sax sound is so distinctive I can recognize it anywhere. (In an Idaho restroom or an airplane…that’s Paul!) His blend with guitarist Nguyen Le on Dominique Parker’s tune “Trance”-English horn and guitar sound like a newly invented instrument. Voice and soprano sax blend with Colleen O’ Brien on “Over the River”, amazing tuning with fellow reedist Bruce Williamson, Gunther Wehinger (flute) in “Hidden Jewel”, with Mark Miller in Ft. Reyes, with Dave Peterson on “Payonne”, with John Guinther and Tim Wendel in “Oregonia”, our newest ensemble.
I remember Paul devouring a huge plate of mussels in French Switzerland at lunch, or grabbing an amazing coffee in Cantania, Sicily. We had black spaghetti at Rosalba’s husband’s photo studio, watching horror movies in Italian on a tiny black & white TV, and waking up to the Strega and her chickens in the morning. Then, after recording, dinner at a guy’s house by the volcano, Etna, who reopened his home restaurant to hear our new recording. Then we saw the most beautiful, sprawling canopy tree, and night lava, red and gold, streaming down the mountainside.
I remember his gleeful, horrified response to watching my wife, Aubrey, demolish a whole T-Bone steak for lunch (no sides) at their first meeting. I remember our mutual embarrassment at trying to hang with the rhythms of Zakar Hussain at McCabe’s in LA when he sat in with us.
We share a daring, rich, varied and fulfilling plate of life and music. We eat life together and it tastes amazing, our international community is loving, fun, talented, and open; our friendship unwavering. We have been through tough challenges (death, illness, divorce, cancelled gigs, nearly unplayable charts, backbreaking tours, uncomfortable, difficult bands, fog, snow, accidents, loss.) Neither of us won the baldness contest (Granelli, Paul, Art, Collin Walcott). It was won by Collin through an applause meter decision (uncontested) at the complex concert when Narya was upstairs on Pearl Street. He won a clock. We lost Col. Bruce, Collin, and Robin. We won New Mexico, Lichtenstein, France, and Georgia (most recent). As my dear friend Peter Melchoir’s wife said at his passing, “We did it all”. Paul and I have lived it all, and we’re not done yet.
One more story: At Dana Walker’s mom’s 70th birthday party at her home in San Francisco, she gave us a list of 200 tunes to learn, including “Violets for Her Furs”. We dressed up coat and tie, which we never do. We were playing some old 30’s standard. Paul’s Dad played the sax, and mine, the piano. I sounded just like my Dad, and Paul kept playing the theme over and over without taking a solo. When it ended, we looked at each other and realized we became our fathers for that time. I asked Paul why he didn’t take a solo and just played the theme over and over. He said, “My dad didn’t know how to solo.” That was more than 20 years ago (Dana’s mom just passed). Where’s my clock?
I love Paul, especially his tenor sax playing. We just follow a yellow bouncing ball together, all the way to Albany.
I suppose it's a quirk of the human condition that the older we get, the fewer heroes we have. It's not just that they are no longer with us, but more that as we age we seem to accrue a kind of inexorable cynicism. That's understandable, I guess, and perhaps inevitable, but having someone to admire is not an inspiration I'd want to be without. I've known Paul for well over 30 years and I'm happy to say he's always been a hero to me, both musically and personally.
I first heard Paul play when I was a fusion-crazed teenager, and encountering Oregon was revelatory. The memories I have of sitting in the dark listening over and over to "Wanderlust" and "Waterwheel" from "In Performance" are particularly poignant for me. That beautiful, intricate, thoughtful musical point-of-view became my North Star and I still try to live up to that very high bar whenever I play a solo or write a new tune.
Paul and I met in person for the first time in the baggage claim of Toronto airport, if I recall correctly. It was the start of a brief double bill tour with Oregon and our group Montreux and I was nervous to meet the guys who had so inspired me. So much so that, when I went to pick up my bags from the belt I fumbled with them and all my belongings spilled out on the floor. I was mortified of course, but Paul very kindly helped me gather everything back up while initiating a conversation about our upcoming shows. I never forgot that kindness and unpretentiousness.
Over the years I've had the pleasure to play with Paul on quite a few albums and tours. I have lovely memories of getting roped into karaoke after having too much sake in Nagoya, stopping on our way from Lorca to Valencia to jump in the ocean, watching "Beetlejuice" after a show in Montreal and joking about "River Dance" at a soundcheck in San Francisco. I can remember recording his parts for one of my albums and not wanting to erase anything he played. It was all just so gorgeous I wanted to take it home and study it. The way Paul flawlessly weaves together Debussy, Coltrane, Joni Mitchell, Bartok and the Beatles makes him, in my estimation, one of the greatest musicians of our time.
It's a truism that getting to know a hero is pretty much always an exercise in disappointment. While this has certainly happened in my life, it the case of Paul it's been only the opposite.
Paul McCandless is one of a kind. An incredibly talented musician and composer, a kind and generous friend, and a person I have had extraordinary life experiences with. Paul's influence on me and hundreds of other people can't be understated.
I was introduced to Paul while in Seattle staying with our mutual friend, Art Lande. Art said, "Come to the airport with me, I have to pick up Paul." From the moment he came into the car we were engaged in joyful conversation and mutual ecstatic fun. My recollection is that we made fun of clarinet players. That was more than 40 years ago and my fondness for him has only grown.
What Paul may not remember is that we actually met before that after an Oregon gig at the Great American Music Hall. I was an oboe player and student of Art Lande before becoming a recording engineer and producer. I began listening to Oregon when Art said, "you should check these guys out".
Aside from the extraordinary music, the band had an oboe player! And not just any oboist who once played the sax and now wanted to try a double reed, but the real deal. An oboist could immediately tell Paul was a REAL oboe player. He knew the craft inside out.
When Oregon came to town It was a pilgrimage of oboe players. Students, symphony players, teachers -- we all went to see Paul play. He had somehow crossed from classical to this new and wonderful genre rooted in complex yet melodic improvisational modern world music with guitar, bass and tablas. He became our leader that would take the oboe from the drudge of classical to the modern world of music.
So what does any young, impressionable student of oboe and improvisation do? Why, you go backstage and discuss reed making! I know Paul doesn't remember that encounter but it still rings clear in my mind. :)
About that time we met in Seattle, I had made a decision to open a commercial recording studio. I was making the move from full time music teacher and musician to being a recording engineer. When my English Horn arrived from France after a 3 year wait, I didn't really have much use for it. It was a wonderful instrument that Paul loved playing so we traded horns. It always gave me so much pleasure to hear it on recordings or when he'd come to the studio to record.
By a strange set of circumstances, Paul was signed to Windham Hill just as I had taken a job as an A&R producer there. He and Robin had also decided to move to Bolinas from New York. With Bolinas was only 90 minutes away and I encouraged that move every way possible! To have my best buddy that close would be a dream come true.
Paul asked me to produce his first solo album on Windham Hill, Heresay, which I gladly did. With Art Lande, Steve Rodby and Trilok Gurtu -- the making of that album could be its own book of stories. Going from best friend to being his producer wouldn't be easy on some relationships but somehow we made it work. I'm very proud to say that Lyle Mays included it as one of his "Desert Island" picks which was better than winning a Grammy.
In the early 90's I became involved with the bluegrass circle of people. I'd have Paul play on those albums whenever possible. Somehow, he ended up in bands like String Cheese Incident and touring with Bela Fleck. We'd find ourselves at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival having a great time backstage. The cross pollination of jazz, new age, bluegrass and Americana was an incredible experience to witness.
But perhaps the most memorable occasions were when Paul took out his horn to play at parties near the ocean, the cooking experiments, the uncontrollable laughter and the spontaneity our friendship had.
Even though we don't talk as frequently these days, I keep up on his activities and am amazed at his ability to continue his pursuit of music and bless us all with his never-ending talent.
Paul McCandless is more than a great musician of our time -- he has been an even better friend.
I fell madly in love with the sound of Paul’s woodwind playing decades before I met him. ‘Winter Light’ by Oregon was the first album I had ever heard with his signature sound on oboe, English horn and bass clarinet. That did it. I became a major fan of Oregon from that point on… smitten with the group’s complex compositions and fiercely adventurous improvisations. It was an absolutely fresh and exhilarating sound. But in particular, it was the haunting voice that Paul coaxed out of those woodwinds that captivated me.
Fast forward to 2007 when I was in the midst of working on my first studio recording project with my Indo Latin Jazz Ensemble, ‘Sangria.’ I was composing music that drew inspiration from Brazil, Cuba, India, Spain and contemporary jazz and wanted to add woodwinds to a few of the tracks. I decided to aim high and invite Paul to play on it. I met with him at a concert where he was performing with Art Lande,and shared the album concept. Paul agreed to record on the project and I was absolutely thrilled. Not only did he take my compositions to new heights with his improvisations, but he was a total delight for me and everyone in the band to work with.
We ended up performing the CD release concert for ‘Sangria’ to a full house at Yoshi’s, and I remember at one point in the show that night feeling Paul just take the roof off the house with his blazing sax solo. Since then I’ve been blessed to have him not only as an extraordinarily talented band mate, but also as a wonderfully dear friend.
I first met and worked with Paul while rehearsing for some concerts and videos with Mariah Parker’s Indo Latin Jazz ensemble. At the time I was going through a tough period dealing with a lawsuit having to do with flooding damage to our apartment. I remember not just what an amazing musician he was but also the kind and patient advice he offered regarding my situation.
When I say an “amazing musician” what do I mean? First off, as the great bassist Christian Mcbride says: “your sound is your signature”. Paul has an indelible sound on every instrument he touches. The tone quality when he plays stays with you when you leave his performances. It’s a deeply human sound that communicates great musical wisdom. This is a rare quality indeed. You have to also keep in mind that Paul is playing some of the most notoriously difficult instruments. The difficulties in getting a good tone on an oboe or English Horn are well known yet Paul plays them with ease. Navigating the bass clarinet is torturous for most musicians but for Paul it’s a breeze. Playing the soprano sax in tune is challenging for most but again no problem for Paul.
This brings up the subject of intonation. I really feel that Paul is one of the most “in tune” musicians I’ve ever played with. As with many facets of music there are those who are excellent and then there are a few who have something special that sets them apart. Intonation is very personal. When you are dealing with instruments such as these, you really have to tune every note you play. This requires a keen ear and an acute awareness of everyone else’s pitch in the band. You are then making constant adjustments to find the best pitch center of every note. As a bassist, I know well how difficult this is, yet Paul does this effortlessly. It’s really something. Then of course there are his fluid improvisations in which, instead of playing the usual clichés, he seeks to truly create spontaneous original melodies.
Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Paul in a number of contexts, many of which have been in the house concert series called “Jazz By the Bay Window” hosted by Joe Paulino. These have always been fun, creative events involving original music, free jazz, and arrangements by the players. It has been a pleasure sharing musical space with Paul in this context. This is where I was introduced to his compositional talents which are of the highest order as with everything else he does in music. We have also often performed at the Throckmorton Theater in Marin, usually in projects led by percussionist Ian Dogole. It was with Ian that we recorded the 2 cd set entitled “Out of the Box”.
During “downtime” between rehearsals and performances I have enjoyed many talks with Paul and have always learned new things from his deep wisdom and artistry.
I feel lucky to have crossed paths with such a rare and wonderful musician.
On numerous occasions, I've been at a gathering where someone was being feted, and Paul would step forward and make a call for words of appreciation, starting the ball rolling with his own.
Now it's our turn!
In the many ways that who we are is shaped by our lived experience, usually a few events and a few people stand out above all others. For me, meeting Paul McCandless and having him in my life towers in that small and insanely important category. We have these people in our lives: heroes, teachers, early believers, stellar and inspirational colleagues, closest confidants, professional promoters, wisdom sharers, generous souls, best friends, and for me Paul is all of those things. Though I don't even remotely believe in fate, I shudder at the thought of what my life would have been like without Paul -- all that music, and all that love.
In the late '70s, I was making frequent pilgrimages from Chicago to NYC, staying with my brilliant main man Ross Traut, playing duo with him, and eating a lot of raw fish. Ross would invite his cool and mega-talented friends over to join us -- from those sessions came so many things that would later bless my life. One particular session had Ross and me playing with Dave Samuels and Paul. I knew of Paul through Oregon, of course, and was starstruck and nervous. It went well it seems ... we all hooked up on so many musical levels, style and time and vocabulary and groove, and also ease. In 1981, Paul decided to have that band record on his next album, Navigator, and that was "the start" for me, my first real record with real players, all of whom were way way better than me, and from whom I would get so much. Navigator was the first of many recording projects that would mark the seasons of our shared musical life.
I suppose the next part of my Paul saga will continue to read like a discography. Because we never lived in the same city or state, and were never in a full time band together, it was always special occasions that would bring us together ... we played a few gigs along the way, but most of our professional time together was occasioned by recording projects. Next, I got to play bass on Heresay, one of the all-time standouts for me -- the original sessions with the greats Art Lande and Trilok Gurtu were amazing, but I really didn't have any idea what was in store, what Paul was really up to, until I heard the final record, when I could take in all of the added parts and orchestration. The writing was masterful and magical, the ambition amazing, and another life highlight thanks to Paul's voice and vision.
A few years later, in the early '90s, Paul asked me to produce his next project, which would become Premonition. It took months of planning, recording, finishing, and during that time it was my great good fortune to truly become his friend. And as all his friends know, that makes one very lucky indeed. In 1997, thanks in no small part to Paul's recommendation, I was able to again assist as a producer with my dream band Oregon, including Oregon In Moscow, a star in the "it can't be done" department. Paul engendered such trust in other people ... otherwise, my participation might never have happened.
So, where others here can and will (thankfully) regale us with lovely and colorful and eccentric Paul stories of adventures, great and wild things that happened on the jazz road, unforgettable gigs (formal and impromptu), much of our time together was making these and other records, trying to capture lightening in a bottle. Often entertaining-anecdote-free, but wonderful nonetheless.
As an artist, Paul is able to embrace the "opposites" in ways few can. He's a practicer -- regular, methodical -- on his instruments, but can always cut loose on the bandstand, and in the studio as well, something many players struggle with. The arrangements on Heresay show his talent (and inclination) for complexly organized and highly controlled vertical and horizontal structures, and yet he's a master free-music player. So very wise, but never the know-it-all. So kind, but always willing to share his mind, even when his thoughts might land painfully. Able to move completely fluidly from the personal to the professional and back again; repeat as needed.
Over the years, we've shared many seismic events in our personal lives. Those weeks and months and years of closeness, away from our work, helped me to survive, helped me to keep moving, helped me to move on.
Along with all the music work and the music play, we've shared so many long great dinners and even longer great conversations. And as everyone knows, Paul loves to laugh, really loud, another thing we share, and shared. And then there's ... I really could go on and on, but all this is just to say how grateful I am.
Thank you, Paul, for all the many ways you've enriched my life and continue to inspire me. I so look forward to the coming seasons.
It is astonishing to reflect on the joy of being blessed with sharing a 50 year friendship and music career with someone as unique as Paul McCandless. We began as members of the Paul Winter Consort in 1970 in New York City. He was already a double-reed virtuoso, and was opening up to improvisation. His talent and intensity were an inspiration for my compositions, as he had the will to play music that was very demanding and required improvising harmonic and melodic skills that hadn’t previously been asked of any oboe player. His determination was astounding, and the scope of his musical vision kept expanding. We left the Winter Consort and formed the group “Oregon”, and Paul brought not only his double reeds but also sax and bass clarinet into the mix, becoming a master of improvisation on all of his instruments. He was able to play any music that I would come up with, and this enabled us to maintain a level of enthusiasm that continued for a lifetime.
He was great to tour with, never complaining about the difficulty of being on the road and always ready with his original and very dry wit. He blossomed as a composer and arranger, and this helped open new venues for his performances. He has always showed courage in difficult times, and I am moved and grateful for this. He has spoiled me for playing with other horn players, as he combines all musical performance elements with competence, passion and humility. This website will cover many examples of a wondrous career, but still won’t quite cover how vast his contribution to the art of music has been.
Paul McCandless is my hero.
His unique combination of extraordinary talent, skill, generosity, kindness, honesty and openness has been a constant source of inspiration in my life.
I fell in love with his playing the minute I first heard him with Oregon. As a young musician in Chicago, I would go to hear Oregon play whenever they were in town and would pester Paul with my observations and revelations about their music. Boring! But Paul would patiently listen and encourage me. I am forever grateful that he allowed me in to his world and gave me the confidence and space to participate in it.
I’m still in awe every time I hear him play. Whatever setting or instrument, pure music, no aﬀectation, no downtime, distilled to the highest proof. What about the free improvisation? That’s totally mind boggling. To commune with the other musicians with no structure at all, just listening in the future moment. Time stands still or dissolves altogether. The optimism, the good notes. Letting us know that on some level, everything’s ok. What a gift.
As if that weren’t enough, he’s been a friend to me too. One I know I can depend on. The beaming smile, the laugh. The posture. The vein! Thank you Paul!
Paul McCandless is a truly gentle soul and one of the most humble and kind people I have ever met.
Just like many other Oregon fans, I first heard of Paul when I heard the Paul Winter Consort’s album, Icarus. I had just turned eighteen, and I had been listening to Chick Corea, Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny, and many other great artists. And when I later heard Oregon, theirs was the most impressive sound I had ever heard.
I first met Paul at an Oregon concert with Trilok Gurtu at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California. When we talked, I tried a tongue-in-cheek joke, saying that he sounded out of tune, planning to follow up by saying that of course, he couldn’t play out of tune if he tried. But my joke was interrupted by some other fans and ended up sounding absurd.
Years later, Paul and I reminisced about the mishap, and he insisted that it was his fault that my joke was interrupted. That is the kind of person he is and has always been.
Before that concert my six-year-old daughter and I were lucky enough to meet Ralph Towner, and he graciously accepted a copy of my CD. Amazingly, by the time my daughter and I took our seats to hear the band play, the members of Oregon had already listened to my music. And after the concert, Paul, Mark Walker, and Glen Moore all agreed to play on my next recording.
Paul has played with many different artists, sounding so miraculous and unique each time. Paul puts his all into every project, no matter who he plays with or where he is playing. Virtuoso that he is, Paul brings his mastery to every project.
No musician has been so influential on my music or has made such an impression on me and on my life as Paul has.
When I listen to music by other musicians, I often imagine alterations to the song, the only exceptions being the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Paul McCandless. When I listen to “All the Mornings Bring” or “Bayonne” by Paul, I would change nothing.
So when the time came for the session, words cannot express how it felt when I shook Paul’s hand.
Knowing Paul’s versatility, I wanted him to play as many instruments as possible on my CD, and he did above and beyond anything I could ever imagine.
After we released the record, I brought Paul to Sacramento a few times for live concerts with my favorite Sacramento musicians. And in between rehearsals and shows, I got to know Paul personally, which was just as special to me as playing music with him on stage. We talked about my musical ideas, and he immediately picked up on my ideas and realized them when we played.
My experiences with Paul have been such an honor. I have learned so much from him, knowledge that will last me the rest of my days. A patient and graceful man of so much experience, I will forever be grateful for his artistry.
I met Paul McCandless in the late 80s when he played on my second Windham Hill Jazz album, ‘Fire in the Lake’. I had already been a fan of his for many years, from his work with Oregon, so imagine my excitement when I found out that he had agreed to play on my record. And I was even more pleased when he told me how much he liked the music. Every solo he made on there is like a classic composition.
After that I got to know him pretty well, as he lived nearby in Bolinas CA. Eventually we played together in the band ‘Three of Worlds’, and I got to play with him many times at various gigs as well as jams at his home in Bolinas. He also graced my third album “Freehouse” with a whole woodwind section and was equally enthusiastic about recording with me on that project.
Paul is the consummate musician, and still one of my favorite sax players out there. Add to that the fact that he plays most of the woodwinds, and you can see what a valuable talent he is.
As a classically trained musician, who can actually improvise really well, Paul shatters musical boundaries right and left. His improvisations are always impeccably melodic, no matter how fast he plays. He can navigate improvising through the most intricate and unusual chord changes, and always comes up with a classic. His timing, phrasing, and feel always falls right into place. He is equally at home reading whatever sheet music effortlessly. Although he plays jazz impeccably, to call him a jazz musician would not do his work justice. He definitely works beyond genres.
In short, there are very few musicians up to this caliber. I would call him a national treasure, if not a global treasure. Add to that the fact that he is one of the most down to earth, kind, and respectful people I know, and there you have it. I celebrate Paul’s gift to the world of music, with much respect and admiration.
I have admired Paul McCandless for many years. Though I personally never had the honor of producing any of his work, I was delighted and honored when he recorded HERESAY for our subsidiary label, Windham Hill Jazz. When we met by chance at Chicago O’Hare Airport many years later, I was rather tongue-tied, simply because of my tremendous admiration for the man.
A beautiful soul, a musical mind as large as the audible universe, Paul McCandless' silences are as golden as his notes, melodies that keep on breathing across the great divide… and all that before the reed is moistened and the joyful noise arises. Thank you, Paul!
I met Paul McCandless in 1991 through Steve Rodby, bassist and producer extraordinaire. I had played on some albums that Steve had produced, including Fred Simon’s Open Book and Michael Manring’s Drastic Measures, which Paul was also on. I was familiar with Paul’s solo work and his work with Oregon, and he was a favorite of mine. The type of music he composed and played resonated with me on a deep level. I wanted to play his music.
That came true in the same year, when we recorded his album Premonition, with Lyle Mays, Steve Rodby, Will Kennedy and others. The dream team of producer Rodby, engineer Rich Breen, McCandless, and Mays was an absolute joy to work with, despite the cast on my left hand from a martial arts accident (hence Will Kennedy).
After recording, Paul formed a touring band that featured Mays on piano, Rodby on bass, Fred Simon on keyboards, and me. The group played throughout the U.S. and at the Montreal Jazz Festival in Quebec. The theme of the Montreal concert was Oregon and featured Ralph Towner solo, the Glen Moore/Nancy King/Art Lande trio, Paul’s group, and the Oregon trio. All night, I was thinking how great it might be to play with Oregon someday.
That thought manifested in 1996 when Rodby called me to play on the Oregon album Northwest Passage. I had moved to New York the year before, and I returned to Chicago to record with the band. We all hit it off, and Towner offered me the gig after the sessions. I began touring with Oregon in 1997. Over the next 23 years, we toured in Europe, Asia, North America, and South America, and made seven records.
I learned a lot from all the members of Oregon, and with our tour manager Alex Platz, became like brothers on the road and in the studio. Night after night, and through the recordings, McCandless never slowed down, navigating through the most difficult chord changes of Towner’s with ease, and bringing some of the most beautiful compositions I’ve heard to the band. His playing is virtuosic, but never showy. He’s one of the most intelligent improvisers on any instrument, and the range of instruments he played on the gig was mind-blowing. He is one of the few musicians who has a world-class signature sound on all the instruments he plays: soprano sax, oboe, English horn, bass clarinet, EWI, penny whistles, tenor sax…and the list goes on.
Personally, he is an absolute pleasure to be around. He also has a sharp sense of humor, and can deliver a great zinger at any moment. I have shared a lot with him personally, and he is someone I’d trust with my life. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to get to know and work with Paul for all these years. I wish him and Joan the very best in life, music, and health, and I look forward to playing together again soon.
Today, I spent the most profound afternoon in my barn, on a rainy, wintry day, listening to the entire "Morning Sun" album, lying on the heated floor. And I am so moved, hearing again the soulful voices of McC's horns, the resonances of which have filled up my thoughts as I write now.
Paul's oboe and English horn have been at home in the realms of jazz and classical music. He has certainly made his mark in the jazz world, and the double-reed players in the classical music community should all have statues of McC on their front lawns.
During my listening today, what most struck me were the five tracks on "Morning Sun" when he played in a classical context: "On the Steppes of Central Asia", " Sunset on the Great Sand Dunes", "Twilight", "Elves' Chasm", and "Morning Sun". This is the most sublime and creative oboe and English horn playing in the history of these instruments, and possibly the most beautiful music ever played on wind instruments.
Paul is undoubtedly one of the greatest masters of these instruments ever, and he is also a very great melody-weaver. But the most miraculous element in this playing is the vitality and authenticity that come from its spontaneity. emanating from the fountain of musical essence in his esthetic DNA.
And to my mind, this is its uniquely American essence: McC has taken the European lineage of these instruments and their classical traditions to a place of Big Land, where jazz was born from the convergence of European and African heritages, and where freedoms of space and interplay lifted that bridled European lineage out of its box. So here, in this garden-spot of the planet in which we are so blessed to explore our life-adventures with McC, there is the ethos of nature and of wildness that we hear in his playing.
What a gift it has been to share this musical and life-journey with Paul.
Much love and gratitude to him always, from Keetu , Kaiya, Chez, and me.
As soon as I placed the needle on the record, I was blown away by the sound of “Oregon”. It was so different from any other jazz I had ever listened to. So acoustic, so organic, and so sensitively beautiful. I was enthralled by their original compositions, the sophisticated chamber music quality, and the lyrical improvisation. I instantly became a fan of Ralph Towner, and Paul McCandless.
In 2009, I met Paul, thanks to the fantastic jazz bassist, Bill Douglass, with whom I had been performing for a few years and with whom I had produced an album. I went to hear Paul perform with the band “Hemisphere”, in which Bill Douglass was the bassist. I had listened to Paul’s playing tens of thousands of times on his records over the years, but that day was the first time I heard him play live. As I heard his signature sound of beautiful oboe and English horn, the wild but sensitive soprano sax, and bad-ass blowing on bass clarinet, I was in a state of ecstasy.
At the start of the intermission, I told my wife how much I would like to play with Paul but that I couldn't imagine asking him. So she took matters into her own hands. She walked backstage, introduced herself to Paul, and began chatting. And when she welcomed me into the conversation, I learned that, thanks to our friend Bill, Paul had already heard about me and my music.
So I give Paul a copy of my CD, made with Bill on bass and Daryl van Druff on drums, and I asked Paul whether he'd be willing to play on my next recording. He replied, "I'll contact you after I listen to your CD.”
After a month passed, the phone rang and showed the caller ID “Paul McCandless”. Paul shared the great news that he liked my CD and would be happy to play on the next one.
Our first rehearsal was at Paul's home studio. I prepared 19 original compositions, and his amazing skills and musicianship showed as he sight-read the tunes perfectly. However, it was his humbleness and sincere attitude toward the music that stood out and were most impressive and humbling to me. He is always so kind to less experienced musicians, and he was that way with me. He worked to bring the beauty out of my compositions as we played through them, and as he prepared dinner for us, he gave me the ultimate compliment by humming one of the tunes.
That rehearsal marked the start of our friendship, and my wife became close friends with him as well. In 2010, Paul and I made an album “Place in the Heart”, featuring nine of my original pieces and his beautiful composition “Spanish Stairs”. Since then, we have been playing numerous performances together in California and did a concert tour together in Japan.
I have learned a lot through my musical experiences and interactions with Paul. He has shared with me his musical skills, and he has shown me the humility, kindness, generosity, diligence, and confidence of being a true artist. My recent music partner, bassist Michael Manring, and I often talk about Paul. To us, he is the musician who can do anything with his instruments. To us, he is quite literally “The Mighty Paul McCandless”. And I believe millions of music lovers and musicians feel the same way about Paul. His contributions to the music community continue to be significant and forever lasting.
He is my beloved hero and friend.