Paul Winter’s musical realm has long embraced the traditions of the world’s cultures, as well as the extraordinary voices of what he refers to as “the greater symphony of the Earth.” His concert tours and recording expeditions have taken him to 52 countries and to wilderness areas on six continents, into which he has traveled on rafts, mules, dog sleds, horses, kayaks, sailboats, steamers, tug-boats and Land Rovers.
Paul’s journey started in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where he began playing drums, piano and clarinet after the age of five, and then fell in love with saxophone in the fourth grade. Playing in small bands with his schoolmates, first in ‘The Little German Band’, PWbyBeverlyHallthen a Dixieland band, and finally a nine-piece dance band known as ‘The Silver Liners’, he became enthralled first with big band music, and by the small be-bop groups of the 1950s, and embarked on his first professional tour at the age of seventeen.
At Northwestern University in Chicago Winter formed a jazz sextet, which won the 1961 Intercollegiate Jazz Festival and was signed to Columbia Records by the legendary producer John Hammond. In 1962 the Paul Winter Sextet was sent by the U.S. State Department on a six-month goodwill tour of twenty-three countries of Latin America.
The success of this tour led to an invitation by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to play at the White House. The Sextet’s performance in the East Room on November 19, 1962, happened to be the first ever jazz concert in the White House.
The Sextet had spent a month in Brazil during the tour, at the time that a new genre of music was blossoming there, called “Bossa Nova,” and following its return to the US, the group recorded an album of Bossa Nova. In the mid-1960s, Paul went to live for a year in Brazil and it became a second home for him. He recorded several albums. Brazilian guitar, Afro-Brazilian percussion, and the symphonic music of Villa-Lobos inspired the aural-vision of the new ensemble he would call the Paul Winter Consort. Launched in 1967, the Consort became the forum for the whole world of diverse music that Paul loved. Paul Winter remembers, “I borrowed the name ‘consort’ from the ensembles of Shakespeare’s time, the housebands of the Elizabethan Theater, which adventurously blended woodwinds, strings and percussion, the same families of instruments I wanted to combine in our ‘contemporary’ consort.” With this group, Winter became one of the earliest exponent’s of world music.