Paul Winter: Celtic Solstice

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Living Music/Windham Hill

Since the formation of his legendary Paul Winter Consort in the 1960s, soprano saxophonist Winter has pioneered fusions of jazz, classical, and world music, sometimes falling within so-called "New Age" parameters but more often defining a unique territory all their own. Professing a 30-year fascination with the reedy sounds of the Uilleann pipes, Winter finally teamed up with Irish virtuoso Davey Spillane for a 1997 cathedral concert that evolved into this enthralling Celtic Solstice recording. With Consort cohort Paul Halley prominently featured on pipe organ, the album features shifting line-ups that include Winter, Spillane, vocalist Karan Casey (from the Irish American band Solas), Eileen Ivers on fiddle, Joanie Madden on flute and Irish whistle, and others. Of course, it wouldn't truly be a Winter project without an Indonesian drum here and some Brazilian percussion there. But only four of the 12 pieces feature ensembles larger than a trio; the most moving soar on the room-filling grandeur of Halley's organ chords, with the pipes, sax, and/or Casey's pure soprano voice describing beautiful, melancholy melodies.