One of the earliest and finest exponents of world jazz, Oregon began life in 1970 as an offshoot of the Paul Winter Consort, in which the group's original members had played.
From the beginning, the band eschewed most jazz conventions. Percussionist Collin Walcott played tabla, sitar, and dulcimer, among other instruments, but did not use a trap set; bassist Glen Moore doubled on clarinet, viola, and piano, and its front line was formed by a double-reedist (Paul McCandless) and an acoustic guitarist (Ralph Towner).
The band's music differed from much of what had heretofore been considered jazz. The concept of blues and swing was given a much-reduced prominence in favor of other, less literal forms of tonal and rhythmic organization. For example, Indian ragas would occasionally replace chord changes, and talas would supplant swing time. The group's dynamic approach was quieter than typical by jazz standards, and their overall aesthetic somewhat introspective.
Improvisation was central to the band's work, however, and in this sense their music is most firmly in the jazz tradition. Oregon's music is characterized by a heightened method of ensemble interaction, a rapt attention to timbral contrast, and an openness to any and all cultural influences.
After Walcott's death in a car accident in 1984, the group disbanded for a time, before eventually replacing him with percussionist Trilok Gurtu.
~ Chris Kelsey, All Music Guide