Those with musical curiosity … should lend their ears to these voices.
Everybody Under the Sun - Voices of Solstice
Volume I – The Singers
Artist: Paul Winter Consort and Friends
Label: Living Music / Earth Music Productions
30 tracks total – 2 CDs CDI 72:37 CDII 76:53
Celebrating a tradition that started in 1980, Paul Winter and Friends present an ambitious 2-stage release that encompasses highlights from nearly two-decades of internationally-flavored musical celebrations of the rebirth of the sun after the longest, darkest part of the year. The gathering takes place each year at New York’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, one of the largest gothic cathedrals in the world. The acoustics of the cathedral, the diversity of the performers, and the cultural mix, all under the direction of Paul Winter, results in a musical/spiritual event unique to ears steeped in the banality of most commercial radio fare.
The first part of Winter’s collected project concentrates on moments that feature vocalists (the companion piece will be devoted to instrumental performances) from a variety of different cultures and parts of the world, making this a true world music project. Winter’s own unique chamber-jazz sound was not unfamiliar to New Yorkers who first encountered the Winter Consort at The Fillmore East, performing their well-known “Icarus” (along with many of their other wonderful compositions). One Winter Consort date at New York’s Fillmore East also featured classic rockers Procol Harum, whose Gary Brooker is featured twice on this new collection of performances.
While Everybody Under the Sun – Voices of Solstice doesn’t quite feature, well, everybody, it certainly covers an awful lot of territory. There are ensembles from Russia, singers from Brazil, Ireland, Bulgaria, the Apache Nation, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Puerto Rico, and Tibet, often paired with Paul Winter and various permutations of his musicians. The more familiar sounds of artists such as Susan Osborn, the gospel-infused vocals of Kecia Lewis-Evans and Theresa Thomason, the folk icon Pete Seeger, and the legendary, soulful rock/pop phrasing of Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker are nestled between the ancient, sometimes tribal sounds of musical traditions rarely heard in any western context. The combining of those ancient sounds with Winter’s ethereal soprano sax and subtle jazz accompaniments makes this a listening experience that is entertaining and educational, as well as occasionally jarring to an untrained ear.
The first Winter Solstice concert at the cathedral was held ten days after the murder of John Lennon, which took place within walking distance of the venue. It’s fitting that Lennon’s “In My Life” is performed twice on this project, separated by 37 years. The first version is performed by Susan Osborn – the second, by Gary Brooker, a friend of both Lennon and Winter. To attempt to go into detail about the 30 tracks on Everybody Under the Sun – Voices of Solstice would be too daunting a task, and one wherein words would ultimately fall short. Certainly, those with musical curiosity, and especially those who resonate with Paul Winter’s unique musical milieu, should lend their ears to these voices.