A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Triumph. The name of the first track and a most fitting description for the new Paul Winter and Friends' CD, Celtic Solstice.
This 12-track disc is masterful, and the proof is heard on track after track: the ethereal, supernatural sounds of Davy Spillane's Uilleann pipes soaring with Winter's trademark soprano sax and swirling around the bold, authoritative tones of the pipe organ on Dawnwalker; the silvery wisps of Carol Thompson's Celtic harp floating above an angelic host of instruments in the beautifully melodic slip-jig O'Farrell's Welcome to Limerick; the banshee wail of Eileen Ivers' fiddle on After the Fleadh/Running Through the Woods with Keetu/After the Fleadh.
As usual, Winter has assembled an all-star cast of guests: Spillane and Ivers of Riverdance fame; vocalist Karan Casey of Solas; Uilleann piper Jerry O'Sullivan, who's worked with James Galway, Sinead O'Connor, Jonathan Brooke and has been featured on the soundtracks for Far and Away and Out of Ireland; and Cherish the Ladies flutist and whistle-player Joanie Madden. Winter's current Consort also consists of guitarist Zan McLeod, pipe organist and pianist Paul Halley, percussionist Jamey Haddad, harpist Carol Thompson; bodhran player Austin McGrath, and South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo (who has been playing with Paul Simon since Graceland).
Saxophonist extraordinaire, Winter, takes his inspiration from the world of nature, and formed his own Living Music record label in 1980 to produce what he calls "Earth Music." As the name implies, it's a blend of instruments and musical styles from all over the globe interwoven with, as he puts it, "the greater symphony of the Earth." This symphony has included whales, wolves, eagles, and recorded in places such as the Grand Canyon and Israel's Negev Desert.
Most of the magnificent Celtic Solstice was recorded in the world's largest gothic cathedral, St. John the Divine in Manhattan, New York City. It's a fitting acoustical and spiritual venue for a work that speaks volumes.
As Icarus was a turning point for Winter, so is Celtic Solstice. Although it's certainly not his first foray into the Celtic world, it's by far a watershed work.
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Edited by Paula Gregorowicz