Seven-time Grammy Award winner Paul Winter’s body of work is made up of an overwhelming list of accolades and pivotal moments. Key among those distinctions is that he is credited with the creation of world music and earth music, two distinct genres which have been informed by his collaborations with artists and nature alike. This latest album, Concert in the Barn, was recorded last year and follows the long tradition of solstice celebrations by Paul Winter and colleagues at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. That year, however, also coincided with Juneteenth, the newly federally mandated national holiday in the States celebrating the news delivered to Black citizens in Texas regarding the end of slavery in 1865.

The story of how the album and its members came together for this particular performance is just as riveting as the record. Without most of its usual band members to participate during the lockdowns of Covid last summer, Winter sought local talent to fill out the band. This is also why this particular lineup is void of the standard percussive elements and has the addition of a bassoon.

But this worked in their favour. Without the use of traditional percussion, instead relying on bassoon, sax, cello, piano, and voice in alternating elements, the resulting ensemble creates an ethereal, haunting setting. The album acts as a jazz narrative, beginning in the mournful breath of winter, the air instrument ensemble crooning over the piano, which acts as both sole percussionist and orator when voices haven’t yet joined. The lament of the first two tracks set the scene of our tiredness with winter and melts away with the first strains of bird song, which are mimicked by instrumentation and eventually become an altogether orchestrated effort on the part of the band. Even as the music swells, however, we never lose touch with the birdsong of the eponymous creature, melding in an alchemical swirl of aural ode to the natural world and the evolving, social one within which we humans dwell.

As the album progresses, it touches on themes as varied as jeremiad, birdsong, courtship, and folklore, all in its effort to melt away the frigid doldrums of winter with warming gossamer strands of jubilant string, air and keys. By the time the ensemble’s frankly iconic rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” plays, there is such clear jubilation and celebratory exuberance that it sparks and crackles, welcoming the approach of the sun and the promise of what the future holds.

Concert in the Barn Track Listing:

1. Sun Singer
2. Lamento de Aiocá
3. The Silence Of A Candle
4. The Well-Tempered Wood Thrush
5. Chora Coraçāo (Cry, My Heart)
6. Sarabande
7. Lendas Brasileiras
8. DNA
9. Air
10. How Can I Keep From Singing
11. Lavadeiras
12. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
13. Moro Na Roça/Lapinha
14. Icarus

Run Time: 59:37
Release Date: June 17, 2022
Record Label: Living Music

Paul Winter Consort
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