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Humphrey's Blues

from Anthems by Paul Winter

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In October 1985, a humpback whale migrating along California entered San Francisco Bay and wandered upstream into the Sacramento River. Many attempts were made to lure the whale, named Humphrey, back to sea. Over 100 boats tried to herd Humphrey downriver. No one knows why, but after 25 days, Humphrey the wayward whale returned to sea. He appears to have made a successful voyage home: in August 1986, 10 months after his river adventure, Humphrey was positively identified off Point Reyes, California.

The melody for “Humphrey’s Blues” comes from a whale recording slowed down to one quarter speed, which is played over the organ harmonies in the last section of this piece and again at the very end. The very high whale cries heard in between are the original recording in real time.


from Anthems, released January 1, 2006
Written by Roger Payne, Paul Winter, Paul Halley (Living Earth Music, BMI)

Paul Winter | soprano sax
Paul Halley | organ
Humpback Whale | voice


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Paul Winter Litchfield

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

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