Paul Winter,
Canyon Lullaby
(Earth Music, 1997)

Paul Winter knew he wasn't done with the Grand Canyon when he released the ensemble album Canyon in 1985. Drawn back again and again in his heart to the "great acoustic place" he'd discovered there, he returned to his musical sanctuary in Bach's Canyon for a new series of recording sessions in the mid-1990s.

But this time, Winter came without his usual assortment of consort musicians. Instead, he decided to make his next album a private tribute to the landscape and to his new reverence for life born along with his daughter, Keetu, in 1996.

The result is Canyon Lullaby, a "day in the life" of the canyon recorded using only Winter's soprano saxophone, the natural reverberations and background sounds of the canyon itself, and the recording equipment he and his crew could tote into the remote setting for the expedition.

Birds' songs and calls, the rumble of a curious hummingbird, crickets chirping and the cries of bats fill in the gaps as Winter lets himself be inspired by his surroundings. The album is arranged in 21 tracks spanning a day from "Canyon Lullaby" at 4:30 a.m. and "First Light" at 5:15, through the morning and day ("Redbud Siesta" at 1:10 p.m., "Afternoon Sun" at 3:30) to nightfall ("Mars on the Rim" at 11 p.m., "Midnight Blue" at 12:10 a.m. and "Moon Shadows" at 1:20). There's a nicely atmospheric thunderstorm rolling through the canyon for "Rain Blessing" (at 2:40). The day and the album both end with one final tune, "Canyon Chaconne (Reprise)," at 4 a.m.

People familiar with the full sounds of the Paul Winter Consort should not be disappointed by the sparser sound of Lullaby. It is a more introspective sound, to be sure, but in its way it's also a more sweeping panorama -- filling the senses with one man's musical vision.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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