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When Jazz Came To The White House

Saxophonist Paul Winter shares his experiences of performing for President Kennedy and First Lady in 1962.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Paul Winter Sextet performs in the East Room of the White House on Nov. 19, 1962. The Paul Winter Sextet performs in the East Room of the White House on Nov. 19, 1962. (courtesy of the artist)

Fifty years ago today, in 1962, something happened at the White House that had never happened before: a jazz concert. Paul Winter and his group had recently won the 1961 Intercollegiate Jazz Festival and been sent on a State Department tour of Latin America, so First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy invited the Paul Winter Sextet to bring its blend of hard bop and Brazilian sounds to the East Room of the Kennedy White House. 

It was only in the days immediately leading up to the Nov. 19, 1962 event that someone realized it would be the first concert of its kind there.

Winter has been a familiar figure to public radio listeners for decades: For his annual Winter Solstice concerts, for his Grammy-winning Paul Winter Consort, and for the strong environmental and natural elements in his music. But the Sextet was his first band, and shows a different side of the popular sax player. Years after his historic performance at the White House, those tapes are now available to hear for the first time on Count Me In: 1962 & 1963.

Winter joins us and reminisces about how this all happened -- and why it ended.


Paul Winter

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