Thursday, October 26, 2017

Paul Winter - 1980 - Callings

Paul Winter

01. Lullaby From the Great Mother Whale For the Baby Seal Pups
02. Magdalena
03. Love Swim
04. Blue's Cathedral
05. Sea Wolf
06. Sea Joy
07. Dance of the Silkies
08. Seal Eyes

Cello – Eugene Friesen
Classical Guitar, Twelve-String Guitar – Jim Scott
Mastered By – Clete Baker
Oboe, English Horn, Sarrusophone, Ocarina [Double Ocarina] – Nancy Rumbel
Organ [Pipe Organ], Harpsichord, Piano – Paul Halley
Soprano Saxophone, Sarrusophone [E-flat Contrabass Sarrusophone], Conch – Paul Winter
Timpani, Surdo, Berimbau, Caxixi, Percussion, Ganzá, Gong, Cymbal, Triangle – Ted Moore

Recorded in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, N.Y.C. 3-M digital mastering system provided by Sound Ideas Studio. Remastered at Sound Recorders, Omaha, NE.

Inspired by the imaginary journey of a mythic sea lion pup, CALLINGS is the  result of three years of research and expeditions by Paul Winter to observe, listen to, and occasionally play his saxophone with sea mammals. His research expeditions for the project took him Newfoundland, British Columbia, Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, the California coastal islands, San Salvador in the Bahamas, and twice again to Magdalena Island in Baja California.

This musical celebration of the sea interweaves the voices of: California sea lion, harp seal, bearded seal, fur seal, sea otter, dolphin, blue whale, humpback whale, beluga, bowhead whale, walrus, polar bear.

The album helped initiate a successful campaign to have Congress designate March 1st each year as “International Day of the Seal.”

In 1979, in Baja California, Paul led a music-making and whale-watching expedition, with the camp set up in the dunes along Magdalena Bay. On the last night in camp,a sea lion pup appeared in the water just offshore, alone and unafraid of the people who gathered around. She came onto the beach, and Paul and the group sat near her quietly, then played a little music, hoping she would feel at ease. She seemed contented and soon put her head down and fell asleep. Paul stretched out in his sleeping bag beside her, and went to sleep with his nose just inches from hers, smelling her fishy dog-breath, and listening with fascination to her tiny “whale-blow” exhalations.

This extraordinary encounter affected Paul deeply, and inspired him to explore the realm of pinnipeds and the role of sound in their lives, in the same way he had immersed himself in learning about whales and wolves.   “I had felt a terrible helplessness, not knowing what to do, when in 1965 I first saw on TV the slaughter of seal pups for their fur,” Paul recalls. “I felt the same frustration three years later when I learned about the whales  – majestic animals that were being killed for dog food and lipstick. But by then I was finally moving towards using music. I came to realize that celebrating the beauty of the living creatures was a more effective strategy to move people than depicting the horror. The best way to raise awareness about the magic of the vocalizations was to find a vocalization we could interplay with, so the actual voices of the creatures were woven in with the music – in a sense we were collaborating with these creatures.”

Paul Winter, in a commentary that can be found at his Living Music website, recalled his first visit to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, in 1974, some six years before this landmark recording was made. It was for the funeral of Duke Ellington, and he writes:

"As we were leaving, recordings of Ellington came through the sound system, and I can still hear the velvet, liquid tone of Johnny Hodges' sax soaring way up in the vault of the Cathedral. I had then no clue that several years later I myself would have the opportunity to play in the Cathedral..."

This album, "Callings," his first recording on his own Living Music label, might be said to have been "informed" by that Johnny Hodges experience, a guess on my part, but not an unreasonable one. What the album did do was to set out a new course for his Consort, and introduced a fresh-sounding instrumental duo, with Winter on soprano sax and Paul Halley on the Cathedral organ

Ever the one to experiment with instrumental combinations and timbres, Winter has often found a way to pair his soprano sax off with other reeds and woodwinds, frequently with them playing in his own register. The unquestioned acme of the album is Blues' Cathedral, imaginatively scored for soprano sax, English horn, organ and a pair of contrabass sarrusophones(!!!). Words are incapable of doing justice to musical spell-weaving of such blinding originality, unearthly beauty and bluesy expression. The expression "cathedral blues" seems to fit the style so well that it is almost as if the Blues' Cathedral track ordains it to be so.

Another highlight is Sea Joy, scored equally imaginatively for soprano sax, oboe, cello, guitar, steel drums and percussion. Fortunately for the audiophiles among us, Callings was Winter's first digitally-recorded and mastered album. It needed to be, to faithfully capture the steel-drums/timpani duo that makes up the sonic joy in Sea Joy. Audiophiles rejoice: this is truly an aerobic workout for your sound systems!

But "Callings" is not just about a track or two. It tells, in music, a story of another initial journey, a first story of nature that would find later expression in his "Canyon," "Whales Alive," "Earth: Voices of a Planet" and "Prayer for the Wild Things" albums, comprising a set that could be said to be Winter's central canon. And it is just a short trip from Blues' Cathedral the composition to cathedral blues the style. The new sound of cathedral blues in "Callings" would find repeated later expression, as early as in "Missa Gaia" and "Sun Singer," following on the heels of "Callings," and as recently as in two of his latest albums, "Celtic Solstice" and "Journey with the Sun."

In summary, an absolutely essential album for the Paul Winter fan, regardless of whether the interest is musical or historic. But, then, if you are a Paul Winter fan, "Callings" will already be in your collection. So these words are really directed at the musical explorers among you browsing this review. Perhaps these words will help to lead you to "Callings" and to other Paul Winter albums, beginning with the few classics noted above.

Get the album. Then turn off the lights, and anything that adds to the background noise level, close your eyes, and let it wash over you. It will work its magic; I just know that it will.

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