Paul Winter Consort – Miho – Journey to the Mountain – Living Music LMU-42, 78:02 *****:
(The Consort includes Paul Winter, soprano sax; Arto Tuncboyaciyan, vocals and sazabo; Paul McCandless, woodwinds; Steve Gorn, bansuri; Eugene Friesen, cello; Glen Velez, percussion; Don Grusin, keyboard; Dhruba Ghosh, sarangi; Yukiko Matsuyama, koto; the Shumei Taiko Ensemble; Yangjin Lamu, voice; Tim Brumfield, organ; Café, percussion; Jordan Rudess, keyboard; Eriko Koide, carillon; The Shumei Chorus, conducted by Hiroko Matsui)
Paul Winter’s music embraces the traditions of many of the world’s cultures. He developed his Consort ensemble while living in Brazil in the 1960s, influenced by Afro-Brazilian percussion, Brazilian guitar, and the symphonic music of Villa-Lobos. Now he uses the natural sound recordings of humpbacked whales, wolves, birds, and other animal sounds mixed into his recordings. His musical-ecological sound vision was further advanced by founding his own label, Living Music Records, in 1980. He frequently performs in the world’s largest Gothic cathedral – St. John the Divine in NYC – noted for its voluminous acoustics.
Acoustics play a part in his new album Miho. It was recorded in the Miho Museum in Japan near Kyoto, which is a recent iconic building designed by the top architect I.M. Pei. He was inspired by the legend of Shangri-la, and his building employs his signature glass roof and love of modern materials. 85% of the museum is built below ground in a natural preserve. It is reached via a soundproofed tunnel meant to clear the mind, and then by a graceful suspension bridge over a stunning gorge. The unique resonant paradise in this Japanese architectural treasure makes a perfect setting for the Consort’s exploration of sound, spirit and space. (It’s just too bad it’s not in SACD surround.)
The album is in two parts: “Many Paths to Paradise,” and “Shangri-La.” Paul usually plays the soprano sax, thought there is an English horn theme from Borodin’s On the Steppes of Central Asia. You will also hear sarangi, Taiko drums, Heckelphone, frame drums,a Japanese bush warbler, waterfalls, bells, and the rumbling voices of Asian elephants. The second half of the CD depicts the legendary hidden valley and the Miho Museum itself.
Interesting that we just reviewed the jazz album inspired by the design ideas of Bucky Fuller (The Dymaxion Quartet) and now we have one inspired by American architect I. M. Pei. Again, which section should this properly go in? But it’s a most enjoyable concert. Miho is one of the Grammy nominees.
— John Sunier