The surgeon of the night sky… (remix in prep) – Ingo‘s memories

Four years ago our summer-long trip to the United States was cancelled by higher forces — which is probably the key reason I started being seriously interested in – and have been buying – different Californian wines for the past two years. Now I go to supermarkets here in the American West, and there are so many fascinating wines on the shelves! I’d like to taste them all, but there are just too many! Most of them I have never seen in Europe.

Before I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, a couple of weeks ago, two different people (musicians) independently of each other suggested I try to arrange to meet two Oregon musicians — David Rothenberg said I have to meet bass player Glen Moore in the far south of Arizona (in the small village Arivaca, a mere handful of miles from the Mexican border, see images above), and Brian Whistler pitched the idea of visiting Paul McCandless who lives less than 20 minutes away from him in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. Having spend several hours with Ralph Towner last year in Berlin, I felt this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet all (surviving) original members of the band Oregon within one year and talk to all of them about their early (and also their later) years. I don’t know that anyone has done that… Ralph and Glen, friends since 1959, have not talked with each other since Glen left the band in 2014. 

On top of all this, after Steve Tibbetts has suggested to me several times that I have to meet and talk to Hans Wendl, one of the earliest people that worked for ECM (from when he was just 16 years old, in 1969, until 1985), I drove from the Mexican border to Californian wine region Sonoma via Bishop, CA, where Hans has moved a few years ago — after having lived in Berkeley since his departure from ECM. We sat down in his backyard and he shared all kinds of amazing insights, until three in the morning — among other things that he was driving the band on Oregon’s first European tour in 1974 — and obviously, everyone was quite moved by remembering those early years. Glen even brought me a recent recording of Oregon’s 1974 concert in Bremen, a tape they had kept in the vault for almost 50 years, recorded in the Sendesaal, where I just filmed and took photos of two very ECM recordings. According to Glen, this is the band at their best, and like everyone else he spoke about those years with Collin Walcott only with the nicest words. (Photos of Inyo Mountains, where Hans Wendl lives, and from a hike at the Sonoma coast with Brian Whistler, below.)

Inyo Mountains, California, where Hans Wendl lives
Sonoma coast, with Brian Whistler
Sonoma coast, with Brian Whistler

As chance would have it, I found a bunch of old Oregon records in a Phoenix record store — in amazing shape and for the best prices, so I just had to buy several of them. I asked three different Manafonistas for their suggestions, and Michael, Brian and Hans-Dieter each named their favorites — each named pretty much the same records, only in different order. Brian and Hans-Dieter also provided me with long and detailed comments sharing their deep appreciation of the whole Oregon discography, and Brian on top played me music from the whole McCandless catalogue throughout the day, to prepare me for my meeting with Paul in Healdsburg. On the way there we drive through a beautiful wine region (wine that I later also was offered by my friends in Berkeley), and in general I learned a lot about Brian’s 70 years in California and the Sonoma region in particular. (Tom Waits also has been living in the next town — in the other direction, though — and it’s apparently not that unusual to see him around there.)

Paul McCandless, whom Brian and I went to see together, as Brian has known his and Oregon’s music since their earliest albums, also was in a talkative mood; even though, due to his health, he talks in a rather low voice and somewhat slower that powerhouse octogenarian Glen Moore. On Paul’s CD shelf I spotted lots of interesting music, The Surgeon Of The Nightsky Restores Dead Things By The Power Of Sound, among others, which I believed to be the one Jon Hassell album I never heard (not being aware of the collaboration album with Bluescreen, Dressing For Pleasure), and when I mentioned this, Paul just gave me the CD. Funny to now have a rare Jon Hassell album as a souvenir from a visit to Paul McCandless‘ living room.

As the final stop (so far) on my interview tour across the West, I then went to see Lee Townsend – in his psychology practice in Berkeley. Having studied psychology in his early years, Lee not only went back to this profession after 30 years in the music industry (while still producing a couple of albums each year, Bill Frisell’s mostly), but also shared a lot of knowledgeable insight into his formative years working for ECM during a significant part of the 1980s.  It will take a bit of time, but I will be honored to share those interviews with all of you once they have been edited properly.  

Glen Moore in Arivaca, Arizona
Glen Moore in Arivaca, Arizona
Big Sur

(The final photo is from Big Sur, inspiration for Charles Lloyd’s Notes from Big Sur, and Bill Frisell’s Big Sur.)

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