Paul Winter Consort

Paul Winter Consort

The Paul Winter Consort outside the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Manhattan, after Earth Mass 2005
Background information
Genres New-age, chamber jazz, folk jazz, ethno jazz, world fusion
Years active 1967–present
Labels A&M, Epic, Living Music
Associated acts Oregon
Past members

The Paul Winter Consort is an American musical group, led by soprano saxophonist Paul Winter. Founded in 1967, the group mixes elements of jazz, classical music, world music, and the sounds of animals and nature. They are often classified as "new age" or "ecological jazz", and their musical style is often called "Earth Music". The group has had many lineup changes since it was founded. Long-standing members currently in the group include Paul Winter, cellist Eugene Friesen, bassist Eliot Wadiopan, jazz oboist Paul McCandless, and percussionist and frame drum specialist Glen Velez. Past members who were part of the group for a considerable length of time include Paul Halley, Susan Osborn, Oscar Castro-Neves, Russ Landau, David Darling, Jim Scott and Rhonda Larson.

The early Paul Winter Consort (1967–1978)

The Paul Winter Consort was founded in 1967 by Paul Winter, who had already begun a promising career as a jazz saxophonist in the early sixties. After hearing the songs of humpback whales, he was inspired to create a new form of music which would bring together elements of music from around the world as well as animal songs, thus creating an “orchestra of the entire world”. This artistic message was in line with Winter's growing interest in environmentalism, animal rights, and pacifism. Winter got the name “consort” from musical groups of the middle ages and the Renaissance which combined the sounds of wind instruments, string instruments, and percussion – the same instruments Winter was interested in using.

The original lineup included Winter on alto and soprano saxophones, cellist Richard Bock, guitarists Karl Herreshoff and Gene Bertoncini, flautist Virgil Scott, double reed player Gene Murrow, and percussionist Ruth Ben-Zvi. The group was initially unsatisfied with recording in the stressful environment of a recording studio, and felt rushed to release albums due to the studio's schedules. The original band released their first and only album, The Winter Consort, in 1968. The group suffered numerous lineup changes in its early stages. Its next album, Something In The Wind , was released in 1969, and replaced Gene Murrow and Ruth Ben-Zvi with Paul McCandless and Steve Booker. Another new addition to the group was bassist John Beal. Karl Herreshoff and Gene Bertoncini only appeared on Something In The Wind as guests, along with five other musicians. The group's third album, Road, was released in 1970, and saw further lineup changes. Winter and Paul McCandless were the only remaining members of the previous lineup, with Bock being replaced by David Darling, and Beal being replaced by Glen Moore. Other new additions were classical guitarist Ralph Towner and multi-instrumentalist Colin Walcott. This third album was of greater success than the first two, and had the unique honor of being brought to the moon by the astronauts on Apollo 15, who named two craters after the tracks "Ghost Beads" and "Icarus." The bossa-nova flavored tune "Icarus" was written by Ralph Towner, and is arguably the Paul Winter Consort's most successful song. It has become the signature piece of both The Winter Consort and Ralph Towner, and was included in the standard lead sheet book known as The Real Book.

1971 saw the group have considerable success, and after replacing bassist Glen Moore with Herb Bushler, got the opportunity to create a new album and have it produced by George Martin, who had gained considerable fame from being the longtime producer of The Beatles. Martin gave the group many luxuries they were previously not used to. They were no longer rushed in and out of recording studios, stuck to the studio's schedules. They also didn't have to deal with the cramped space of the studio, with Martin suggesting they create the album in a rented house near the ocean. The Consort was encouraged to nourish its music and sense of community, and the end result was the landmark album Icarus, which was released in 1972, which George Martin described as “the finest album I've ever made”. 1972 also saw the departure of many important members of the group: Towner, McCandless, and Walcott all left to focus on their own new group with former Consort bassist Glen Moore, called Oregon.

The group took a long hiatus from recording, and Winter spent much of his time further researching the idea of creating music with animals. These experiments culminated in his experimental 1978 solo album Common Ground, which featured many members of the Consorts past, as well as many of the musicians that would shape the Paul Winter Consort in the future.

Artists-in-residence and Living Music (1978–1993)

After the release of the ground-breaking album Common Ground, Winter founded Living Music, his own personal record label. Almost all of Winter's musical endeavors have since been released on the Living Music label. Having his own record label allowed him to take the time he desired to create his albums, and allowed him to create them using naturally acoustic spaces as opposed to the artificial acoustics of a recording studio.

Another new change came 1979 when Winter and the Paul Winter Consort agreed to be the artists-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. There, Winter met pianist and organist Paul Halley, who would become a performer and composer for the Paul Winter Consort for 20 years. Winter and his Consort began organizing many different events at the Cathedral, and in turn the Cathedral allowed the use of its very reverberant sanctuary (with a measured seven seconds of reverberation time) and its organ for the creation of new albums.

The Consort appeared on many of Winter's projects throughout the 1980s. With their new lineup of Paul Winter on soprano saxophone, Nancy Rumbel on oboe and English horn, Paul Halley on piano and organ, ground-breaking jazz cellist Eugene Friesen, Jim Scott on guitars, and world percussionist Ted Moore, The Consort recorded Winter's album Callings, which further examined the possibility of creating music with wildlife. As a result of this album, March 1 was designated as the International Day of the Seal. It was also in 1980 that the first Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice celebrations were planned at the Cathedral, which have been an annual event since their creation. Another project taken on as a result of their position as artists-in-residence was the Missa Gaia/Earth Mass, a contemporary mass which includes music from around the world and the use of the sounds of wolves, whales, and loons to create the melodies for each of the movements. The mass was completed and premiered in 1982, and featured a choir of 300, and vocalist Susan Osborn, a former member of the Consort.

Another first for Winter and his Consort came in 1985. Now including guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves and percussionist Glen Velez, the Consort took a number of rafting expeditions down the Colorado River, eventually recording the Paul Winter album Canyon in the inlets and side canyons of the Grand Canyon. The album was a new experiment, with Winter playing with the natural acoustics of the Grand Canyon. 1985 also marked the first release by the Paul Winter Consort since 1972: a live album recorded at the United Nations titled Concert For The Earth. The concert was part of the 40th birthday celebration of the UN, and also was a landmark accomplishment for Winter. The concert featured a 'reunion' consort of 12 musicians, with the addition of new Consort bassist Russ Landau, former member Susan Osborn, and guest musicians, including a 90 piece choir.

By 1987, the Consort had had another lineup change: Jim Scott had left the group, flautist Rhonda Larson became part of the group, and Neil Clark had joined as a percussionist. It was during this time that the group made a new connection: The Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, a vocal group from Russia that was dedicated to the performance of traditional Russian folk music, had agreed to create an album with Winter. The milestone album, Earthbeat, was recorded in both New York City and Moscow, and was the first album of original music created by Americans and Russians together. This achievement came only a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War.

An 'extended' Paul Winter Consort of 18 musicians was also featured on Winter's 1990 album Earth: Voices Of A Planet. The album was a commissioned work to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, and was premiered in Times Square. 1990 also saw the group record a new album: The Man Who Planted Trees. The album was a companion to the narration of the story of the same name by Jean Giono. The album featured Mark Perchanok on heckelphone. Another Paul Winter Consort album came in 1991: a live recording from the 1978 Paul Winter Consort and guests called Turtle Island. This large piece also featured the poetry of Gary Snyder. Also in 1991, the Consort was featured as a backing band on Paul Halley's solo album Angel On A Stone Wall.

The next record featured a lineup change once again, with Russ Landau being replaced by bassist Eliot Wadiopan. The 1993 Spanish Angel was the group's first Grammy award winning album (although some of Winter's albums which the Consort was featured on had won Grammy awards in the past decade). The album was the group's third live album, recorded during their 1992 tour of Spain.

More lineup changes and return to recording (1993–present)

The Consort took another long break from recording after their 1993 album Spanish Angel. They still performed regularly in concert, and annually participated in Winter's annual Summer and Winter Solstice Celebrations. Many members of the Consort were featured as members of Paul Winter's Earth Band, or appeared on other Winter solo albums. It was during this time that the Consort saw changes in a membership that had been stable for quite some time. Rhonda Larson left to concentrate on a solo career in 1993. Oscar Castro-Neves also chose to leave the group, still appearing as a guest artist on a regular basis. Paul Halley left the group in 2000 to concentrate on his career as a choir director, organist, and composer. It wasn't until 2005 that a new Paul Winter Consort album was released: The Grammy award winning Silver Solstice. The album was a two disc album of the live performance of the 25th Winter Solstice Celebration. As all Winter Solstice Celebrations do, it includes a large number of guest musicians, many of which had collaborated with Winter or his Consort in the past.

An album of new material from the Consort came in 2007: The Grammy award winning album Crestone. The album was recorded up in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, near the town of Crestone. It was another example of the group's interest in natural, and in some cases, challenging acoustic spaces. The album also marked the return of Consort veteran Paul McCandless. Also joining the group was Don Grusin. The newest album of music from the Consort was released in October 2010. The album, Miho: Journey to the Mountain, was commissioned by the Miho Museum in Japan. The album was recorded inside the corridors of the museum. It won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album, the Consort's fourth Grammy win.


Title Year Label
The Winter Consort 1968 A&M
Something In The Wind 1969 A&M
Road 1970 A&M
Icarus 1972 Epic
Earthdance 1977 A&M
Concert for the Earth 1985 Living Music
Wolf Eyes 1989 Living Music
The Man Who Planted Trees 1990 Living Music
Turtle Island 1991 Living Music
Spanish Angel 1993 Living Music
Silver Solstice 2005 Living Music
Crestone 2007 Living Music
Miho: Journey to the Mountain 2010 Living Music
Earth Music 2011 Living Music



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