I should start this review out with an apology: I'm sorry but I just cannot very much take a good deal of Paul Winter's late output. I mean, Common Ground was brilliant, but Canyon and Callings? Even Missa Gaia? Cah-mon! It drives me nuts because Winter was once a guy so far beyond saccharine that one can hardly credit the later gooey environmentalistic oeuvre with the same gent who introduced the seminal group Oregon to the world. I value The Winter Consort, Road, and Icarus in the same way I cherish Led Zeppelin 1, King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King, Circle's Paris Concert, Nick Drake's entire catalogue, and so on. No kidding, no exaggeration, If I could afford a vault, I'd place those LPs in there for safekeeping, but that late period stuff of his? Not so much. Thus, it's with a great deal of pleasure that I can point to Count Me In: 1962 - 1963 as perfectly in line with the Consort materials, a precursor and illuminated kindred contrast that may even be…(oh God, how do I say this and not betray my not-so-secret beatification of Ralph Towner & Co.???)…better!
Not only is this 2-CD set packed in with material, 32 cuts worth, but the remastering of the original Columbia release of the White House gig, played for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at the suggestion of Dizzy Gillespie, is augmented by 14 tracks nowhere else released. More, the band's crammed with talent: Warren Bernardt, Dick Whitsell, Harold Jones, Cecil McBee, Jeremy Steig, Freddie Waits, Gene Bertoncini, etc., and of course Winter's prime period sax work. If you think he was hot stuff later, you haven't checked this gig out yet. The range of material stretches from trad to blues to sass (catch The Nasty Hurtin' Blues) to audacious (Mystery Blues) to bop and everything in between. Winter is outstanding throughout and spotlessly backed, whether the boss is waxing rambunctious, as in Routeousness, or balladic. If you check Webster's Third Int'nat'l. for the word 'tight', I'm pretty sure you're going to find a snapshot of the Winter Sextet.
For over two hours, the band wails with guts, spine, integrity, outstanding chops, and humor (those trumpet side commentaries in the otherwise slinky title cut Count Me In are hilarious, something Raymond Scott would've whipped up). Those familiar only with Winter's later work will be shocked to hear how far beyond hip the young reeds giant was, holding nothing back. Even—yep, I have to say it—the Consort materials were not as clever or loaded with chops as the Sextet. And the arrangements? Yow! To kill for. The 60s saw not only the opening of a new musical consciousness in rock and roll, it also witnessed the door closing on a mindset found only in jazz, and, though fusion may have been a very worthy successor, there's still nothing quite like the cream of the crop in the preceding bop/swing era. Rarely, as in Wynton Marsalis' Village Vanguard materials, someone comes along and updates the blinding brilliance of the epoch but, even then, it's not quiiiiiiite the same (mainly 'cause Wynton's a genius and everything he touches becomes his), so grab this overwhelming document while you can. It's on Winter's Living Music label (wherein those New Agey releases also appeared, so don't for a moment be diverted), and the market is so damn fickle nowadays that God only knows what'll happen. One small grace will occur, though: Count Me In will definitely be on my FAME Best of 2012 list. It's that damn good.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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