Formed while Paul Winter was a student at Northwestern University in Chicago, the Paul Winter Sextet won the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival held at Georgetown Universty, judged by Dizzy Gillespie
and John Hammond
, in May 1961. Hammond signed the group to Columbia Records. The Sextet recorded a total of five albums between 1961 and 1964 and were among the first to blend Brazilian bossa nova and folk music with their jazz. In 1962 they toured Latin America as cultural ambassadors for the United States State Department, playing 160 concerts in 23 countries. The Sextet was also the first jazz band to perform at the White House.