The Paul Winter Sextet

Count Me In 1962 & 1963
Living Music LMU-44

By Ken Waxman

Long before New Age/World Music become a genre; and saxophonist Paul Winter’s Consort organized its Annual Winter Solstice festival; he led a dynamic sextet that attained unprecedented popularity. This two-CD set including 14 previously unreleased tracks, is a vibrant souvenir of that group, not only the first jazz band to play at the White House, but one of the first US purveyors of the bossa nova.

Although the sextet’s prominence came after winning an intercollegiate jazz showcase, each member was already a professional, or about to become one. Winter had been leading bands since his teens; trumpeter Dick Whitsell had a firm grounding in modern jazz; pianist Warren Bernhardt became a go-to studio cat; original bassist Richard Evans became a producer/arranger; replacement Chuck Israels was with Bill Evans; founding drummer Harold Jones became a Basie linchpin and the next, Bill Riley, worked with Thelonious Monk. The band’s first baritone saxophonist Les Rout became an academic, but the next, Jay Cameron, was a big band veteran.

Another of the group’s secret weapons was that it put its own stamp on sophisticated hard-bop charts. Considering the composers were the likes of Jimmy Heath, Tom McIntosh and Norman Simmons, the band’s talent becomes apparent. Furthermore Winter never lacked chutzpah. The group went on its US State Department-sponsored Latin American tour and played the White House because the saxman relentlessly lobbied for the gigs. He had every right to. The discs capture the excitement the sextet engendered. It used intelligent horn-blending and fire-cracker sharp rhythms to pull the most out of tunes like Simmons’ “A Bun Dance” and Lalo Schifrin’s “Toccata” without becoming overwrought. Rout’s luminescent tones stand out on the second tune as Winter’s lilting alto does on bossa novas like “Voce e Eu”. Meanwhile Bernhardt’s “Pony Express” is as notable for clever horn harmonies as his soloing. Jones’ rolls which shepherd the band’s theme “Count Me In” display how he fit with Basie.

The new sextet on Disc2 shows what could have happened. Bernhardt’s “Suite Port au Prince” foreshadows jazz’s genre-mixing. Theatrically wrapped around a lyrical theme were trumpet triplets, hard reed bites and a weighty piano ostinato. Elsewhere relaxed arrangements give everyone a chance to stretch out. Winter’s wide-vibrato soprano solo on McIntosh’s “With Malice Towards None” is unique; whereas Heath’s “The Thumper” is hard bop to its Nth degree characterized by Cameron’s buoyant blasts. But band energies were dissipating as Winter’s interest in other musics led to the Jazz Meets the Folk Song LP, from which three examples are here. While the sextet made folk melodies swing, the performances don’t match its earlier, tougher work. That was the end. Still these 32 tracks remain, celebrating the group’s achievements.

Tracks: Disc I: A Bun Dance; Papa Zimbi; Casa Camara; Them Nasty Hurtin’ Blues; Voce e Eu (Only You and I); Insensatez (Foolish One); Mystery Blues; Chega de Saudade (No More Blues); Routeousness; Count Me In Bells and Horns; Saudade de Bahia (Longing for Bahia); Casa Camara; Pony Express; Maria Ninguem (Maria Nobody); Toccata (from “Suite Gillespiana”); Count Me In Disc II: Cupbearers; Ally; The Sheriff; With Malice Toward None; All Members; Marilia; Suite Port au Prince: A. Invocation to Dambala, B. Prayer, C. Papa Zimbi; New York 19; Quem Quizer Encantrar O Am (He who wants to find love has to cry); The Thumper; Count Me In; Repeat; Lass from the Low Countrie; Down by the Greenwood; We Shall Overcome

Personnel: Dick Whitsell : trumpet; Paul Winter: alto, soprano saxophones; Les Rout (tracks 1-17), Jay Cameron (tracks 18-32): baritone saxophone; Jeremy Steig: flute (track 13); Warren Bernhardt: piano; Gene Bertoncini: guitar (track 13); Richard Evans (tracks 1-11, 13, 16, 17) Chuck Israels (tracks 18-32), Cecil McBee (tracks 12, 14, 15): bass; Harold Jones: (tracks 1-11, 13, 16, 17), Ben Riley: (tracks 18-32) Freddie Waits (tracks 12, 14 , 15: drums

—For The New York City Jazz Record December2013