(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Jazz and world-music innovator Paul Winter has chosen to mark the 50th anniversary of his first band, the Paul Winter Sextet, with two reunion concerts at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on June 6 and 7, 2012, at 7:30pm. The band will include four of the original Sextet members – pianist Warren Bernhardt, drummer Harold Jones, bassist Cecil McBee, and Paul Winter on alto sax – along with trumpeter Marvin Stamm and baritone saxophonist Howard Johnson.
Of having chosen the Mahaiwe for these historic reunion concerts, Winter says: “The Consort and I played for the first time in the magnificent Mahaiwe this past February, and we loved the acoustics and the experience. I feel it’s the perfect place for our Sextet reunion.”
The Mahaiwe concerts will be a singular event to be filmed for a DVD that will be part of the forthcoming box set Early Winter, with all the Sextet’s Columbia albums, live recordings from their Latin America tour, and also the unreleased recordings from their historic White House concert.
The Paul Winter Sextet emerged in Chicago during Winter’s years at Northwestern University. After winning the 1961 Intercollegiate Jazz Festival, the band was signed to Columbia Records by legendary producer John Hammond (whose other signings included Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen). In 1962, the Sextet recorded its first three albums, and, on recommendation from Festival judges Dizzy Gillespie and Hammond, was sent by the State Department on a six-month tour of 23 countries of Latin America.
The success of this tour led to an invitation from First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to play at the White House. The Sextet’s performance in the East Room on November 19, 1962, happened to be the first-ever jazz concert in the White House.
The group continued to tour and record throughout 1963, and made its final album during the week of President Kennedy’s assassination. Then, numbed by that tragedy, and discouraged by what they felt was the end of that optimistic era, the Sextet disbanded and the players went on to other pursuits – the drummer eventually to Count Basie’s band, the bassist to Ahmad Jamal’s trio, the trumpet player to medical school, the baritone saxist to teach at Michigan State, and Winter to Brazil, to resume his exploration of the world’s music.
“The Sextet was conceived as a kind of little ‘big band,’” says Winter, “and with our instrumentation of three horns and rhythm, it has quite a different sound from that of the Paul Winter Consort, which people have known me for during the last several decades. But on a primary level, it’s all the same lineage: a spirit of celebration, in the democracy of ensemble, aspiring toward a balance between the improvised and the composed.”
Pianist Warren Bernhardt has had an illustrious career playing with a wide variety of ensembles and singers, including Gerry Mulligan, Clark Terry, Jack DeJohnette, Steely Dan, James Brown, Linda Ronstadt, and Simon and Garfunkel.
Drummer Harold Jones now plays with Tony Bennett, after long stints with the Count Basie Band, Sarah Vaughan, and Natalie Cole.
Bassist Cecil McBee has been with the bands of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Chet Baker, and Yusuf Lateef.
Of trumpeter Marvin Stamm, Winter says: “Marvin was our contemporary in the college jazz festivals of 1960 and 1961, featured with the renowned North Texas State Lab Band; they were kind of the New York Yankees of the college big bands, and Marvin was their Mickey Mantle. He then joined the Stan Kenton band, and over the years played with many of the famed big bands before becoming a fabled free-lance recording artist in New York.”
Howard Johnson, who happened to have known the Sextet’s original baritone saxist, Les Rout, in Chicago in the early ‘60s, is revered as a player of both tuba and baritone sax, and has played with a raft of bands, including those of Gil Evans, Jimmy Heath, Hank Crawford, and Gerald Wilson, as well as The Band.
Tickets are $20, with $50 preferred seating available, which includes a post-show reception with the artists.
The Mahaiwe is located at 14 Castle Street in Great Barrington, Mass.. Box office hours: Wednesday –Saturday, noon-6pm.