AS HE HAS done for most of his career, Paul Winter celebrates nature and humankind on "Sun Singer." This is the kind of pastoral jazz -- with the emphasis on pastoral -- that has become the aural benchmark of the entire Windham Hill catalogue. But Winter gives it a distinctive flavor through his soprano saxophone. His playing is always lyrical, flowing, gently imaginative and, as in "Dolphin Morning" in which he utilizes the song of the bottlenose dolphin, entrancingly eerie. Always, though, the tones, the spirit are life-affirming.
Recorded inside the acoustically grand Cathedral of St. John the Divine, "Sun Singer" celebrates external cycles ("Reflections in a Summer Pond" and "Winter's Dream") and internal miracles ("Dancing Particles" and "Heaven Within"). There is an almost melancholy grace to much of the music, melodic lines floating like falling leaves and settling into the rhythmic brush. But the music also offers a joy and release at the inexorable wonder of it all, most evidently on "Big Ben's Bolero."
Winter, whose playing is cool and liquid, is abetted throughout by Paul Halley on piano, organ and keyboards, and Glen Velez on an astounding variety of percussive instruments. On the back cover, Winter quotes Thoreau: "Morning is when . . . there is dawn in me." You just know he never needs to leave a wake- up call.
PAUL WINTER -- "Sun Singer" (Living Music LMR-3); Winter appears with poet Samuel Hazo on Sunday at 7:30 at the Hirshhorn Museum.