By John Torsiello
When Paul Winter turned 80 his determined resolution was “slow down as fast as I can.” Now, as the years have passed and the acclaimed and decorated musician has hit the 81-year-old milestone, there has obviously been no slowing down.
Indeed, Litchfield resident Winter has recorded what he considers a very special album, Light of the Sun, his 53rd recording, was released on November 13, 2020. The work showcases his “signature” sax voice for the first time, and the musician and composer believes he has produced the most “personal musical offering” of his 60-year recording career.
In his compositions, Winter mixes elements of jazz, classical, world music, and the sounds of animals and nature. They have been called “ecological jazz,” and Winter’s musical style is often called “Earth Music.”
“I have long dreamed of making an album that features my sax throughout and of recording it in my three favorite acoustic forums on the planet: New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the “Kiva” of the Miho Museum in the Shigaraki Mountains of Japan, and the Grand Canyon,” Winter explained of the genesis for his new recording.
Winter, terming himself primarily a “bandleader,” said it was “a thrill” for him to be able to focus so much attention on his own playing. “In most of the 50-some albums I’ve done over the years, my focus was primarily on my whole ensemble first, and sax player secondarily.”
While Light of the Sun was “a very pleasurable process” Winter related, the undertaking was not without its challenges. “It began a year ago in early September in Japan, and it’s been a long journey.”
From the early days of his college jazz sextet, which toured 23 countries of Latin America for the State Department and performed the first-ever jazz concert at the White House for the Kennedys in 1962, to his later ensemble, the Paul Winter Consort, Paul Winter’s concert tours and recording expeditions have taken him to 52 countries on six continents. He has recorded over 60 albums, of which seven have been honored with Grammy Awards.
The Paul Winter Consort has been Winter’s forum since 1968, and he has been more than content to play as a member of the ensemble. But he said he has long harbored the dream of creating an entire album featuring his beloved horn.
“This year, having recently turned 80, I figured this was as good a time as any to do it,” Winter says. “So I embarked on this adventure: to weave a tapestry of pieces I love to play, with the finest accompanists I know, and to record in my favorite acoustic spaces on the planet. These are places where I feel my horn realizes its true voice.”
Light of the Sun is “like a collection of 15 love songs I’ve recorded,” Winter opined. “Most of my albums where I’ve been just one of the players in the ensemble. I regard this album as my testament as a sax player. I aspired to sing on my horn, and I believe Light of the Sun is by far my best effort as a soloist.” His inspirations for the songs on the recording were many, Winter explained, but primarily it was, as its title suggests, the light of the sun.
Now it’s on a new project, the celebration of the great bird migration from Africa through the Middle East to Eurasia. It’s entitled “Flyways.” Despite his year-old resolution, there seems to be no slowing down for octogenarian Paul Winter.