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Sample Track 1:
"Down in Belgorod (with the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble)" from Silver Solstice
Sample Track 2:
"Caravan at Dawn (with Mickey Hart, Arto Tuncboyaciyan)" from Silver Solstice
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Silver Solstice
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Artists' bios

Paul winter biography

(adapted from Music Hound World)

Soprano saxophonist Paul Winter is one of the pioneers of world music. In addition to combining elements of African, Asian, Latin, and Russian music with American jazz, Winter was one of the first to incorporate the sounds of nature and wildlife into his compositions. Winter was initially rooted in the jazz tradition. Although he majored in English composition at Northwestern University in Chicago, he frequented the city’s jazz clubs. With his college band, the Paul Winter Sextet, he won the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival competition in 1961, and was signed by John Hammond to Columbia Records, recording a self-titled debut album that December. In 1962, a cultural exchange tour of 23 countries of Latin America, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, opened Winter’s ears to a broader world of music. The success of the tour led to an invitation from Jacqueline Kennedy to play at the White House, and the Sextet’s concert on November 19, 1962, was the first ever presented by a jazz group there.

Winter was so captivated by Brazilian music that he returned to Rio to live for nearly a year in 1964 and 1965, during which time he recorded albums with Carlos Lyra, Luiz Bonfa, The Tamba Trio, Roberto Menescal and Oscar-Castro-Neves. In 1967 he formed the Paul Winter Consort, as a forum for the whole range of music he had come to love, borrowing the group’s name from the house bands of the Elizabethan Theatre of Shakespeare’s time. The Consort recorded three albums for A&M Records between 1968 and 1970. Icarus, a masterpiece that serves as a bridge between small-combo jazz and world music, was recorded in 1971, produced by George Martin, who called it “the finest record I have ever made.” Considering that Martin produced nearly all the albums of the Beatles, the remark carried much importance. In 1972, with cellist David Darling, Winter organized a new ensemble, and original band members Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless, Collin Walcott and Glen Moore launched their experimental jazz band Oregon.

The sounds of nature fascinated Winter, who first heard the songs of humpback whale in 1968, and was beguiled by their poignant and complex vocalizations. Winter and the Consort combined the sounds of whales, wolves, and birds with their acoustic improvisations on their next recording, Common Ground, the first album to blend musical influences from around the globe with voices from nature. In 1980, Winter and the group became artists-in-residence at New York City’s “green” cathedral, St. John the Divine, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, and launched their own record label, Living Music. While many of these albums have been recorded in a studio that Winter built in a barn, the Paul Winter Consort has recorded in such locales as the Cathedral, the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the Grand Canyon.

The Consort toured the United States with Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko in 1985, and joined with a Russian chorus, the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, to record Earthbeat three years later - each a groundbreaking artistic achievement and social statement during the Cold War. Winter worked with marine biologist Roger Payne and narrator Leonard Nimoy in 1986 to record Whales Alive!, an album of compositions based on melodies from whales. The Consort provided musical accompaniment for beat poet Gary Snyder on the 1991 album Turtle Island. Winter and his musicians have earned numerous awards for their albums. 1983 Sun Singer was named “Best Jazz Album” of 1983 by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors; Spanish Angel and Prayer for the Wild Things won Grammy® Awards back-to-back in 1993 and 1994. Winter produced Pete Seeger’s Pete, which received the “Best Traditional Folk Album” Grammy® in 1996.

Winter’s own most recent albums are squarely in the world-music canon. Brazilian Days (Living Music, 1998) is a collaboration with Oscar Castro-Neves, the Brazilian guitarist whom Winter had met in Rio in 1962 and who was one of the seminal figues in the bossa nova movement. Celtic Solstice (Living Music, 1999), also a Grammy® winner, draws from the stellar Celtic musicians who have played at Winter’s annual Summer and Winter Solstice Celebrations at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Many of the albums tracks were recorded in the Cathedral, and it’s a cornucopia for Celtic fans, including appearances by Uilleann piper Davy Spillane, singer Karan Casey from Solas, tin whistle player Joanie Madden from Cherish the Ladies and fiddler Eileen Ivers of Riverdance fame, not to mention a full Irish, African, and South American percussion ensemble. Winter’s latest album, Journey with the Sun, features Armenian vocalist and instrumentalist Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Davy Spillane, and Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart, and was nominated for a Grammy as “Best World Music Album.” -- Craig Harris

the silver solstice players: some stories
Cello, along with Brazilian classical guitar, has become a central voice in The Paul Winter Consort, and it has been the one instrument besides Winter’s sax that has stayed constant in the band. Winter met Eugene Friesen in an improvising workshop he conducted at a college in Fresno, California in 1973. “He had never improvised before, but I sensed in him a spirit of adventure, and wrote his name down on a scrap of paper. Five years later we needed a cellist, and I tracked him down at Yale. He was strictly a classical player back then, but now he’s one of the great improvising cellists on the planet.

”For an early recording expedition into the Grand Canyon, Winter was seeking a percussionist who played hand drums and could ride a mule. A friend recommended Glen Velez, and he turned out to be the perfect percussionist for the Consort—both out and indoors. In the years since, Glen has become possibly the world’s most renowned frame-drum player.

Winter was captivated by the remarkable voice of Celtic singer Nóirín Ní Riain when he heard her sing in a cathedral in Amsterdam. Her unique style of embellishment, inspired by the Irish “sean nos” (old style) tradition, resonated with Winter’s jazz esthetic. Soon thereafter Nóirín became one of the featured guests at the Solstice events.

Winter met Mickey Hart one night while playing in Los Angeles. “We had three percussionists at that time, and one of them was a friend of Mickey’s and, unbeknownst to me, he invited him to sit in. So at one point during the concert I looked around and there was somebody new sitting behind the drum set; I had no idea who it was but he was grooving right along with us so I didn’t mind. Later Mickey invited me up to his studio north of San Francisco, and we found we had a huge common ground of interest in the indigenous musical traditions of the world.” Mickey has been a Consort guest several times, and on Silver Solstice he plays his newly-invented instrument: R.A.M.U.—“Random Access Musical Universe”—an array of hand drums and drum pads hooked up to over 300 samples of instruments and voices from all over the world.

Winter met the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble in Russia in 1986 when their two groups were billed in the same concert at Moscow University. “It was a shock of recognition for me,” says Winter. “Here was this same Slavic chorus sound—these riveting voices with these dense, dissonant harmonies—that I had fallen in love with years before when I heard the album Music of Bulgaria by the Koutev Ensemble in 1963.” Winter returned to Russia the next spring to record with the Pokrovsky Ensemble the album Earthbeat, the first album of original music created by Russians and Americans together, a ground-breaking achievement during the Cold War.

The great Irish Uilleann piper Davy Spillane “dropped into my life out of the ether.” Visiting friends in Maine one summer, Winter was walking in a remote coastal area and he heard, coming from a house, the sound of bagpipes playing a beautiful ballad over the accompaniment of a pipe organ. “I was stopped in my tracks, since it was very much like the duets I play with Paul Halley on the pipe organ at the Cathedral. I went up to the porch and asked the people who was playing, and they said it was a CD called Pipe Dreams by Davy Spillane. I called Nóirín Ní Riain, who lives in County Limerick, and she said Davy lived in the next county and she got me his number. A month later I was in Ireland at Davy’s home, near the Cliffs of Moher, and the Uilleann pipes have taken their place in my pantheon of soulful voices of the Earth.”

Armenian musician Arto Tuncboyaciyan first came to play with the Consort for a Summer Solstice event, in 1998, on the recommendation of penny-whistle master Joanie Madden, of Cherish the Ladies. “Arto’s reputation as a percussionist preceded him, but we had no knowledge of his vocal abilities,” Winter says. “During a break in rehearsal I overheard Arto quietly singing to himself, and I asked him about the song. He sang it for all of us, and we were deeply moved, and insisted that he sing it in the concerts. He accompanies himself on an instrument he made that he calls ‘szabo,’ a 6-string variation on the traditional Anatolian szaz. His songs don’t usually incorporate any traditional language, but rather use vocables from his own personal dialect which he calls ‘Arto-stan.’”

These and a raft of other musicians can be heard on Silver Solstice. This year’s Winter Solstice performances will feature The Forces of Nature Dance Theater Ensemble, African-American dancers and percussionists; Brazilian singer Renato Braz; and the Russian village singers and dancers of the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble.