Paul Winter,
(Living Music, 1986)

I no longer recall what it was about Wintersong that caught my eye.

At the time, I hadn't heard of Paul Winter. The cover, showing a young girl wearing a wreath of flowers, is cute but hardly jaw-dropping. Most of the tunes were unfamiliar to me; only "Tomorrow is My Dancing Day" was familiar. But for whatever reason I brought it home. I'm glad I did.

Wintersong is one of my least favorite of Winter's albums.. Still, it sparked enough interest that, over the next few years, I sought out some of his more phenomenal recordings from earlier and later in his ongoing musical career. It is also, to my knowledge, the only of Winter's recordings made up entirely of traditional material.

Winter and his merry band of musicians cover a wide range of largely European traditions here. Beginning with the traditional English tune "Tomorrow is My Dancing Day," the band travels the world with "Swedish Song," "The Cherry Tree" and "Little One" from the American Appalachians, the German and English "Peasant Revels," the Italian "Dance of the Golden Bough," the French "Wintersong," and more.

While many of Winter's albums are saturated with the sounds of nature or dig deeply into the cultural and musical traditions of some part of the world, this one is content to present new arrangements of old tunes. At that level, Wintersong is excellently done.

Musicians on Wintersong are Winter on soprano saxophone, Eugene Friesen on cello, Paul Halley on piano, harpsichord and organ, Rhonda Larson on flute, Nancy Rumbel on English horn and oboe, Marcio Sapel on cuica and whistle, Dan Carillo on steel-string guitar, Oscar Castro-Neves on clasical guitar, Russ Landau on bass, Neil Clark on the talking drum, bells and percussion, and Ted Moore on orchestra bells, surdo and other percussion, and Guilherme Franco on snare drum. Combined, they have recorded a sometimes lively, sometimes sentimental, always very tight and well-oiled package of tunes.

If you have an interest in traditional tunes performed non-traditionally, check this one out. Otherwise, I'd recommend trying something else from Winter's extensive discography first.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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