Showcasing his signature sax voice for the first time, Winter has produced the most personal musical offering of his 60-year recording career.
Light of the Sun is a milestone in Paul Winter’s long musical journey; the first album he has made in which he is the featured soloist throughout.
“Since I organized my first little band in Altoona at age 12, I have always worn two musical hats: as player and bandleader,” Winter says. “But my love for playing sax has most often been overshadowed by my fascination with bands and ensembles of all kinds.”
With his early jazz sextet and with the Paul Winter Consort, which has been his forum since 1968, Winter has usually been content to play as a member of the ensemble. The premise of his bands has always been that of a musical democracy: everybody is featured, but the overall ensemble
sound is primary. However, he has long harbored the dream of creating an entire album featuring his beloved soprano sax.
“This year, having recently turned 80, I figured it was as good a time as any to do it,” Winter says.
Winter knew early on that he wanted this album to be a celebration of light. “With the title Light of the Sun, I intended to embrace the many meanings we attribute to light: light as spirit, love, consciousness, human kindness, serenity, heart, exaltation, fire, the light that is integral to beauty, and the smile that reflects the sunshine in our heart,” continues Winter. “Music is the common medium that can embody both the spiritual and physical aspects of light.”
The 15 pieces of the album include a series of new compositions, along with unique reinterpretations of iconic chestnuts from Winter’s odyssey.
Included is a trilogy of pieces featuring voices from what he calls “the greater symphony of the Earth,” saluting our three realms
of ocean (Dolphin), air (Wood Thrush), and land (Wolf).
“I have had the great privilege of recording in my three favorite sonic temples on the planet: the ‘Kiva’ of the Miho Museum in Japan; the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, where the Consort and I have been artists-in-residence since 1980; and the Grand Canyon, which has been a place of pilgrimage for me for many years,” explains Winter.
“These are places where I feel my horn realizes its true voice, acoustic spaces where its spirit-song comes alive.”
The album is structured as a journey with the Sun through the morning, afternoon, evening, and night of a day, and also through the seasons of the year.
“Light of the Sun is my testament as a sax player,” says Winter. “And in saying this, I don’t mean to imply it is my last. Actually, I’m intending it to be my first. When you arrive at 80, you need to be ready for something new.”
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The Grand Canyon has long been a place of pilgrimage for me. I came to the Canyon for the first time in the spring of 1963. I was on my first cross-country tour with my jazz sextet, driving from Chicago to Los Angeles on old Route 66. I remember sitting on the edge of the South Rim, playing my soprano sax, just for fun. As the sounds vanished into that vast sea of air between me and the North Rim, 13 miles across, I recall wondering what kind of amazing echoes might be found at the bottom of the Canyon, a mile below.
I thought no more about it, until ten years later when I visited the Canyon again. This time I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail with my horn, and was thrilled to find some of these echoes. As I watched the mule trains go past on the Trail, taking tourists to the bottom of the Canyon, I imagined bringing our whole band down there, with the cello and drums and guitar strapped on the mules, and recording in these extraordinary acoustic spaces.
It took another seven years to realize this fantasy, and in 1980 the Consort and I did come into the Canyon, but in May of 1985, after making a long and challenging hike from the River, we arrived in a spectacular sanctuary embraced by an 800-foot wall of Navajo Sandstone. The sound was sublime, and happened to have the same seven-second reverberation time as in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. From the first notes I played, in this “box canyon,” I knew we had found our “acoustic Shangri-La.” And since this side-canyon had no name on the map, we decided to give it our own name: “Bach’s Canyon.”
In the years since, I have returned to “Bach’s Canyon” several times, and spent many days, playing at all times of morning, noon, and night, with the optimism that this great and reverberant space, under the desert sun and the midnight stars, might evoke from me some special music.
“Canyon Chaconne” began with an improvised passage, and evolved into a theme-and-variations piece, unintentionally having a structure influenced by a lifetime of listening to Bach. I remember, as the variations unfolded, imagining harmonies accompanying these lines, as if some great ghost-organ was coming out of the walls of stone around me. When we got back home with these tapes, I went into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine with my colleague Paul Halley, and accompanying me on the pipe organ, he found these harmonies, which then became part of the piece.
“Canyon Chaconne,” of all the recordings I’ve made in this magnificent “love-scape,” over the years, is the piece that comes closest to expressing the depth of my feelings for the Grand Canyon.
(A “chaconne” is a musical structure that was popular in Bach’s day. It was originally a dance form in which a fixed progression of chords was repeated as the basis for each melodic variation.)
from Light of the Sun,
released November 13, 2020
Written by Paul Winter, Paul Halley
(Living Earth Music, BMI;
Back Alley Music, ASCAP)
Paul Winter is a seven-time Grammy-winning saxophonist, whose sextet was the first jazz group to perform at the White House
in 1962. His second group, the Paul Winter Consort, interweaves sounds from the natural world with classical and ethnic traditions, and the spontaneous spirit of jazz. Their annual Winter Solstice Celebrations and Earth Mass are among the most popular events in New York....more
supported by 4 fans who also own “Canyon Chaconne”
In the village across from the house where my dear-dead-dear lived was a school with waves of the sounds of children at play. Wind played in the trees with a not dismimilar sound to seaside waves. Hours were joyfully spent in this liminal space. It seemed that placed would always be available to us. It is gone. Mom is gone. Somehow Anima Loop places me back there. artistreader
supported by 4 fans who also own “Canyon Chaconne”
The seamless transitions between their trademark atmospherics and more kinetic sequencer sections is masterful, more amazing to have done it live. Kudos to Spotted Peccary for generously putting this out as a name-your-price release. Paul Asbury Seaman