This 2cd set is a 50th year anniversary anthology of a band, a style of music and an era that is regrettably long gone. Back in 1961, a young student at Northwestern University named Paul Winter started a small band that caught the ear of legendary producer John Hammond, who subsequently not only signed them to Columbia Records (when the label was actually a social and musical force), but set them up on a State Department tour to 23 Latin America countries. After that, Winter and his band (Dick Whitsell/tp, Les Rout/bs, Warren Bernhardt/p, Richard Evans/b, Harold Jones/dr) became the FIRST jazz band ever to perform in the White House, invited by First Lady Jackie Kennedy herself. What you’ve got here is all of the band’s studio material, PLUS the actual recorded show. The band changed personnel a bit after the gig, and after the assassination, lost the heart to keep going and disbanded, so this is all your ever going to get from this incredibly forward thinking team.
The studio material (which has the band including Chuck Israels-Cecil McBee/b and Ben Riley-Freddie Waits/dr during the transitions) is filled with a mix of originals, traditionals and music from the then fledging bossa nova craze. The band itself is sort of a mix of the cerebral cleverness of the Dave Brubeck quartet and the energetic and funky drive of a Horace Silver or Jazz Messengers. They can get down and dirty on material like “Count Me In” and “Them Nasty Hurtin’ Blues,” and glide and slide with passion on Jobim pieces such as “Insensatez”or “Chega de Saudade.” Whitsell’s got a warm and clear tone, not unlike a Kenny Dorham, as he displays on “Ally” and “Suite Port au Prince,” while the bari sounds from Rout (and later Jay Cameron) are thick, rich and flexible. Winter himself has a deep alto sound and is swinging like crazy all throughout. The half hour concert in the Kennedy East Room has the band emphasizing Brazilian and Latin material with some exciting and assertive sounds coming out of “Casa Camara” and the heavy hitting “Toccata” which has Jones rocking the walls with a fiery drum solo. The album closes with the band delivering a heartfelt reading of a popular church traditional of the day, “We Shall Overcome,” which then referred to the Civil Rights era, but could now be used for so much world wide oppression against the persecuted worldwide church. Always a battle to fight; this essential and important pair of discs is something to not only inspire each listener, but to ask “where did we turn wrong?”
Living Music Records