People driving by the Carter Barron Amphitheatre next Saturday and Sunday may be excused for thinking some animals have escaped from the National Zoo. They really will be hearing the howls of wild wolves, and the calls of eagles and whales, but those calls are only on tape. And they're on tape so that the Paul Winter Consort can weave its vivid aural tapestries around the pure sounds of nature. "We do some improvising in all those pieces, but the basic melodies come from the creatures," says Winter, the saxophonist whose early '60s sextet was the first jazz group to perform at the White House.
Besides keeping up a full concert schedule, Winter and his Consort have spent the last five or six years exploring the nuances of wild animal sounds: 1978's "Common Ground" was built around wolf calls, while the more recent "Callings" celebrated the songs of sea mammals.
There's also a new studio album, "Sunslinger," being finished in New Hampshire. It will be the first offering eaturing the new Consort (Eugene Friesen on cello, Paul Halley on piano, Glen Velez on perecussion and John Clark on French Horn). The Consort will be joined at the Carter Barron by Windham Hill solo artists Alex DeGrassi and Liz Story on guitar and piano, respectively. Tickets are $2.
On the reasoning behind putting animal sounds in his music, Winter says, "There are universals in the music that can reach people anywhere in the world. The first time I felt this was on a Latin American tour for the State Department in 1962. We played in places where people had never even heard of jazz: It didn't really matter and they responded intensely to what we did. Anything that was rhythmic, they would resonate with.
"I came away from that believing there are elements in music that can reach everybody on the planet. I know that anybody I've ever played a wolf howl to has responded in some way."