Paul Winter returns to New York City for special 2011 holiday concerts

11/30/2011, 5:13 p.m.
Renowned saxophonist, composer and bandleader Paul Winter, long known for his pioneering fusion of jazz,...
Paul Winter returns to New York City for special 2011 holiday concerts

Renowned saxophonist, composer and bandleader Paul Winter, long known for his pioneering fusion of jazz, world music and natural sounds of the Earth, returns to New York City in December for a truly special holiday season of performances featuring his debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 6, as well as his latest offering in the over 30-year tradition of Winter Solstice Celebrations at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine from Dec. 15 through 17.

Beyond the multicultural and environmental focus to his music, Winter's legend has been built in part on momentous concerts in acoustically remarkable settings such as the Grand Canyon, Siberia's Lake Baikal, the Miho Museum in Japan or in the seven-second-reverberation interior of this cathedral, the world's largest. Winter's music offers a tonic to people in a 21st century world.

The return of the Paul Winter Consort on Dec. 15, 16 and 17 to St. John the Divine marks its 32nd annual Winter Solstice Celebration, a contemporary take on the ancient ritual ceremonies of the longest night of the year, after which the Earth begins its rotational cycle back toward summer. Nondenominational and open to all, the celebration shares the cathedral's universal mission of being "a house of prayer for all people and unifying center of light and leadership."

As in past years, the performances will offer a cross-cultural and multidisciplinary theatrical spectacle featuring more than 30 performers, taking full advantage of the awe-inspiring resonance of the church's soaring vaulted ceilings, with the promise of packed audiences. In addition to his own group-led by Winter on saxophone, with pianist Paul Sullivan, cellist Eugene Friesen, bassist Eliot Wadopian, percussionists Jamey Haddad and Scott Sloan, reed player Paul McCandless, and organist Tim Brumfield-the Consort is joined again this year by gospel singer Theresa Thomason, African mbira master Chris Berry, and the 24 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. The musical dynamism of the event is enhanced by its breadth of instrumentation from the 28-foot "Solstice Tree of Sounds"-a spiral sculpture adorned with hundreds of bells, gongs and chimes symbolizing the diversity of life on Earth-to the all-immersing sound of the cathedral's titanic Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.

For an equally unique but altogether intimate holiday concert experience, Winter's Dec. 6 performance-his first in the splendor of the Metropolitan Museum-will take place in the Medieval Sculpture Hall in front of the museum's Christmas tree and Neapolitan baroque creche, featuring Winter on saxophone with his longtime collaborator, pianist Sullivan. Together, the two will perform an acoustic program of original music and seldom heard traditional songs of the season, gathered from Winter's award-winning albums "Wintersong," "Sun Singer" and this year's Grammy winner, "Miho: Journey to the Mountain." Also on offer will be a piece by J.S. Bach, a vital and life-affirming ingredient that Winter considers a must at every one of his concerts.

Winter first came to national prominence after his college jazz sextet won the 1961 Intercollegiate Jazz Festival and was signed to Columbia Records by one of the judges, Columbia Records A&R man John Hammond. The following year, the Paul Winter Sextet was sent by the U.S. State Department on a six-month tour of 23 Latin American countries, the success of which led to an invitation in November 1962 from then first lady Jacqueline Kennedy to perform in what would be the first concert ever by a jazz group in the White House. After living in Brazil for a year in the mid-'60s, Winter founded a new ensemble as a forum for the range of music he had come to love. Since then, the Paul Winter Consort has played more than 3,000 concerts, toured in 52 countries and recorded 45 albums, seven of which have received Grammy Awards.

Winter has shared stages and worked with the likes of Miles Davis, Mickey Hart, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Pete Seeger, producers George Martin and Phil Ramone, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko and the music of composer Charles Ives. His work has been honored with a Global 500 Award by the United Nations, the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal for service to animals from the United States Humane Society and an honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Hartford.

Concert details are as follows:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Medieval Sculpture Hall

1000 Fifth Ave., New York

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m.

(212) 570-3949

Ticket price: $65

The Cathedral Church

of St. John the Divine

1047 Amsterdam Ave., New York

Thursday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 16, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

(212) 316-7490 or

(866) 811-4111 for tickets.

Ticket price: $35 and $50 (general admission); $80

(reserved seating)