Midwest Record

Album Review – 11/4/12

It’s one thing to know Paul Winter has been around forever but this 50th anni collection of released and unreleased material outlines the difference between knowing it and KNOWING it. A fresh faced lad just out of Northwestern, Winter landed a deal with Columbia under the aegis of John Hammond and brought along his pals Warren Bernhardt, Richard Evans, Chuck Israels among others that we didn’t KNOW were around back when the earth was cooling. He was hanging out with Denny Zeitlin as well, but Zeitlin already had his Miles Davis stripes so we know he was there when psychiatry was invented. (He wasn’t in San Francisco yet because Lewis and Clark hadn’t discovered it yet). Meanwhile, before Winter was running with the wolves and examining nature, long before it was hip, he was a bebopper!

This collection licenses the original Columbia sides and adds a White House command performance for the Kennedys because he was the Kennedy’s fave jazzbo. They even hooked him and the crew up with the State Department for world tours. (You thought he was just some old hippie). Disillusioned by the end of Camelot, the band broke up and the rest is history. Cutting his own path through the wilderness hasn’t hurt Winter at all, but it’s interesting to hear when might have been if the course of human events didn’t throw one of it’s unexpected monkey wrenches into the works. Of particular note to the young jazzbo out there, this doesn’t sound like old man jazz a bit and the new mastering shows how much Hammond cared about his new find as what’s brought out in the tape shines mightily. The more time that passes, the more there is to check out and the more that gets forgotten. Thanks for the trip through your back pages, Paul. You were always a gasser.


Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

Album Review – 11/8/12

… I value The Winter Consort, Road, and Icarus in the same way I cherish Led Zeppelin 1, King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, Circle’s Paris Concert, Nick Drake’s entire catalogue, and so on. No kidding, no exaggeration, If I could afford a vault, I’d place those LPs in there for safekeeping… . Thus, it’s with a great deal of pleasure that I can point to Count Me In: 1962 – 1963 as perfectly in line with the Consort materials, a precursor and illuminated kindred contrast that may even be…(oh God, how do I say this and not betray my not-so-secret beatification of Ralph Towner & Co.???)…better!

Not only is this 2-CD set packed in with material, 32 cuts worth, but the remastering of the original Columbia release of the White House gig, played for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy is augmented by 14 tracks nowhere else released. More, the band’s crammed with talent: Warren Bernardt, Dick Whitsell, Harold Jones, Cecil McBee, Jeremy Steig, Freddie Waits, Gene Bertoncini, etc., and of course Winter’s prime period sax work. If you think he was hot stuff later, you haven’t checked this gig out yet. The range of material stretches from trad to blues to sass (catch The Nasty Hurtin’ Blues) to audacious (Mystery Blues) to bop and everything in between. Winter is outstanding throughout and spotlessly backed, whether the boss is waxing rambunctious, or balladic. If you check Webster’s Third Int’nat’l. for the word ‘tight’, I’m pretty sure you’re going to find a snapshot of the Winter Sextet.

For over two hours, the band wails with guts, spine, integrity, outstanding chops, and humor (those trumpet side commentaries in the otherwise slinky title cut Count Me In are hilarious, something Raymond Scott would’ve whipped up). Those familiar only with Winter’s later work will be shocked to hear how far beyond hip the young reeds giant was, holding nothing back. And the arrangements? Yow! To kill for… So grab this overwhelming document while you can. It’s on Winter’s Living Music label,… and the market is so damn fickle nowadays that God only knows what’ll happen. One small grace will occur, though: Count Me In will definitely be on my FAME Best of 2012 list. It’s that damn good.
– by Mark S. Tucker


Jazz Report

November 21 2012

The historicity of this Paul Winter Sextet recording, Count Me In: 1962-1963, is significant. The performances came were honed by an ensemble that was energised by the fact that it had been hand-picked by the legendary impresario, John Hammond.

The band was coming to the end of a critically acclaimed 23-nation State Department tour that culminated in a rousing performance at The White House. And sadly, shortly after the exquisite White House performances, the ensemble became caught up in the mood of a dispirited nation after the tragic murder of its then President John F. Kennedy and it was disbanded. But the White House Concert remains one of the most enduring testaments to a band led by a musician who was growing exponentially as a composer and leader. As a side-note the band would never re-group as most of the other musicians went on to other things.

The first part of the album comprises 14 previously unreleased charts and this is followed by the historic White House performances and the music showcases a critical period in the evolution of Paul Winter as a bandleader and as a saxophonist and composer. In many respects it provides an unbroken musical timeline between the saxophonist’s earliest sextet recordings and the later Consort music. There is that same sense of celebration of the triumph of human endeavour in the bluesy performances of the Sextet and the glorious tones and textures of the music of the Consort. Winter’s legendary musicality, although in its relative nascence raises its spectacular head in the manner in which he brought the musicians together to express themselves in their unique voices. This is best described in the relationship of the trumpet and woodwinds, more especially in the manner in which Winter’s alto saxophone makes its way through the contrapuntal labyrinth that Winter has created in the music of this record. The glorious interplay of horns on charts such as “A Bun Dance,” “Routeousness” and “Count Me In” sets the tone for much of the ensemble’s music. Although it sometimes seems as if the trumpet plays a bronzed lead voice in the first-mentioned chart, this notion is quickly squashed when the band transitions into “Papa Zimbi,” a chart which appears to begin in the concert halls of Europe, but quickly and gracefully slides into the robust rhythms of Africa, before colliding with a bluesy bebop when Winter’s soaring solo is further fed by Les Rout’s baritone and Dick Whitsell’s trumpet, followed by Warren Bernhardt’s magnificent cycling of the masterful canon that is built into the heart of the tune. However it is the brilliant counterpoint written for bassist Richard Evans and drummer Harold Jones that is most captivating.

Another aspect of Winter’s music here is his latent affinity, and often obvious sense of worship at the altar of Latin rhythms, especially his penchant for all things Brazilian. The band’s sense of saudade is wonderfully captured in the aching loneliness of “Insensatez” the swaggering tones and textures of “Voce e Eu” and of course Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic “Chega de Saudade”. That Winter and the rest of the sextet are so in tune with Jobim, is probably linked to their own exquisite and earthy handling of 12-bar blues that is so brilliantly demonstrated in “Them Nasty Hurtin’ Blues” and “Mystery Blues”. But more than anything else is the manner in which this ensemble is moulded by Winter into an Afro-Brazilian band when he switches to his Brazilian doppelgänger mode. The depth of Winter’s understanding of the Brazilian palette of tones and textures and his masterful use of it on his musical canvas often makes him a kind of honorary Brazilian. In this regard, he is much like Toots Thielemans and Hendrik Meurkens. Though the latter musician came much after both Winter and Thielemans, he too is a died-in-the-wool Brazilian soul. This aspect of Paul Winter so enchanted then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy that she is said to have approached Winter after the White House Concert and asked him to tell her more about his Brazilian musical experiences.

The White House Concert itself was historic in that it was the first time any music in the jazz idiom was patronized by the American Presidency and surely that must have prepared the way for the many jazz concerts that have taken place since then. The celebratory nature of the music continues into the White House concert with the opening canticle, “Bells and Horns” and even the forlorn longing of “Saudade de Bahia,” a spectacular Bossa Nova cannot dampen the spirits of the set. Bassist Jones plays his spectacular ostinato passage in “Casa Camera” with unfailing brilliance and this sets the audience on fire so much so that it is hard to imagine the applause as being diplomatically polite. Of course this rubs off onto the musicians and Dick Whitsell’s consummate wailing on “Pony Express” and other charts is a result of the fact that the White House audience is deeply appreciative of the music of the Sextet. The gentle swing of “Toccata” is a wonderful tribute to Johan Sebastian Bach, who perfected the form of this music and suddenly turns fiery as drummer Harold Jones takes over the form made in European genteel setting and re-shaping it into a mighty Afro-American celebration.

The racy nature of the music continues from “Cupbearers” through the wonderfully humorous chart, “The Sheriff” and the dazzlingly brilliant “Suite Port Au Prince”. The multiplying moments of genius continue through to the wondrous chart “The Thumper”. It seems though, that the finest wine is left for the last as the Sextet is utterly magnificent on “Lass from the Low Countrie,” “Down by the Greenwood Side” and finally on a majestically rousing “We Shall Overcome,” that seems to mark the breathtaking optimism that had swept the United States when JFK was in office. For this and the many reasons that unfold throughout the 2 CD musical odyssey this record will remain one of the finest feasts of music released in 2012. Count Me In is a truly historic musical document that is an essential to the collector of great contemporary musical performances.

Reviewed by: Raul da Gama