During a distinguished career spanning three decades, Paul McCandless has brought a soaring lyricism to his playing and composing that has 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.His father played the oboe, as well as his grandfather, who acquainted Paul in his youth with the world of musical instruments in his repair shop, where pieces of old horns became toys. By nine, McCandless was playing the clarinet. Although his training was classical, he was introduced to jazz during junior high school and was learning saxophone at the same time that he took up his primary instrument, 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 first oboe player, he joined the Paul Winter Consort. A finalist in the 1971 English horn auditions for the New York Philharmonic, McCandless had already been playing with the Consort for three years, establishing an affinity for unconventional contemporary chamber settings. He would play with them until 1973, recording five albums and appearing at Fillmores East and 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 later form the group OREGON. For three decades, this group has continued—transcending all established genres; surviving the tragic death of Collin Walcott (succeeded now by Mark Walker); recording 23 albums on Vanguard, Elektra/Asylum, ECM, Epic, Chesky and Intuition Records; performing in major clubs and concert halls including Carnegie Hall three times, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic Hall, and Vienna’s Mozartsaal; touring the U.S, Canada, Mexico, South America, Eastern and Western Europe, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Australia; appearing at international festivals in Berlin, Pori, Molde, Newport, Telluride, Arcosanti, Bombay and Delhi. As a member of OREGON, he has been a featured soloist and composer with the Stavanger Orchestra, and in conjunction with Dennis Russell Davies performed with the Philadelphia, St. Paul Chamber, Stuttgart Opera, and Freiburg orchestras.
In 1999, Paul recorded three of his orchestral scores for OREGON and the Moscow Tchaikovsky Orchestra called Oregon In Moscow.
In his odyssey through the woodwind family, McCandless gradually expanded his array of instruments, adding the bass clarinet, soprano and sopranino saxophones, penny whistles, various ethnic flutes, and the electronic wind controller to his primary instruments, the oboe and English horn.
He began extending his reach outside of OREGON as a collaborator and solo artist, and is credited with more than 150 albums and performances with such musicians as Jaco Pastorius (Invitation on Warner Brothers), Carla Bley (Night-Glo on Watt-Works), Art Lande/Dave Samuels (Skylight on ECM), Eberhard Weber (Later That Evening on ECM), as well as with Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Mark Isham, Steve Reich, Al Jarreau, Bruce Hornsby, Victor Wooten, Fred Simon, Michael Manring, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, and String Cheese Incident.
He inaugurated his solo career with All the Mornings Bring on Elektra/Asylum and Navigator on Landslide. The desire to work with larger compositional forms led to his 1988 release Heresay on Windham Hill featuring pianist Art Lande and Pat Metheny Group bassist Steve Rodby, followed by Premonition in 1992 with renowned players: Metheny Group pianist Lyle Mays, Steve Rodby both as producer and player, former Yellowjackets drummer William Kennedy and OREGON drummer Mark Walker. He toured with his own quintet featuring Mays and Rodby in the U.S. and Canada where he performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
While an artist on Windham Hill, McCandless also contributed to numerous anthologies including Bach Variations, The Impressionists, The Romantics, and Solstices II-VI, two of which were gold records. He also composed and recorded Squanto and the First Thanksgiving for Rabbit Ears Productions which was aired on Mel Gibson’s children’s program on National Public Radio. In 1997 he wrote, scored and performed four symphonic compositions with the Camerata Orchestra in Mexico City
Even as McCandless pursues his solo endeavors and his work with OREGON, he keeps several other activities in motion simultaneously. He recorded three albums and toured with Béla Fleck with whom he won a Grammy in 1996 for Best Pop Instrumental. He maintains his long-standing musical relationship with Art Lande, continues to collaborate with a multitude of other artists and currently tours with the group Proteus 7.