Experienced Paul Winter Sextet plays with maturity

| Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 10:23 p.m.

Jazz bands often get better with age, but the Paul Winter Sextet accomplishes that feat with maturity.

The sextet began a two-night stay at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side Nov. 8 with a concert that was a tribute to the Winter group of 1962.

But that tribute is being offered by a band that is far better than the original one. It only makes sense. The 1962 group was made up of college kids that did a State Department tour and became the first jazz band to play at the White House.

This band is made up of a Winter, with 50 years experience behind him, and jazz veterans such as trumpeter Marvin Stamm and baritone saxophone giant Howard Johnson.

They played much if the same music as 50 years ago, but played it with more skill. It is easy to compare the two. Winter recently released “Count Me In,” a recording of the band from 1962 and ‘63. When the band played “Bells and Horns” at the guild, Stamm's trumpet and Johnson's sax gave the piece a sharper edge than did the sax of Les Rout and trumpet of Dick Whitsell in 1962.

The concert at the guild was a pleasant show, but the strictly defined numbers gave it an almost too-planned feeling. Rather than being built around songs that encouraged great forays into improvisation, this concert was focused more on short, nicely structured numbers.The arrangements on tunes such as “Them Nasty Hurtin' Blues” were inventive and well done, but they also kept the songs from having too much freedom. Solos were well played, but rather restrained.

In some ways, the tunes were mindful of the days of the short recordings that filled vinyl albums: generally aimed at radio play.

But this band featured such good players that the numbers always were good to listen to. The program ranged from Brazilian numbers such as “Insensantez” and a ”Longing for Bahia,” which were indicative of the ‘62 band discovering this South American music on their tour.

One of the best tunes of the evening was “New York 19,” which Winter explained referred to a culturally busy part of the city and its postal area before ZIP codes gave it a 10019 billing. It is a gorgeous ballad by pianist John Lewis that featured a nice arrangement and a great Johnson solo.

Winter played the first half entirely on alto sax, but brought out his more familiar soprano for the second and songs sucd as “With Malice Toward None.”

The concert did not create the most intriguing evening, but its quality kept it from being disappointing.

(The concert will be repeated 8 p.m. Nov. 9. Admission is $45. Details: 412-322-0800 or www.mcgjazz.org.)

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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