Norma Winstone: Distances

[21 July 2008]

By D.M. Edwards

Norma Winstone has covered some distance. In the 1960s she pushed the boundaries for the voice in jazz with collaborators such as Joe Harriot and Mike Westbrook. In the 1970s her work on ECM in the group Azimuth (with Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor) explored the territory between modern jazz and avant-classical minimalism. As her graceful style instinctively shuns histrionics, clutter, heat and overt humor, Winstone is perhaps the opposite of another memorable British jazz singer: the late George Melly.

Distances is Winstone’s first ECM album in a decade and her first with Glauco Venier (piano) and Klaus Gesing (soprano sax, bass clarinet). On “Gorizia” she reprises her wordless voice-as-instrument style, but the Cole Porter cover is far from obvious, as is the choice of Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood”. The other territory on the album includes tributes to Coltrane and Pasolini, and cuts inspired by Satie, calypso, and Italian folk music. Producer Manfred Eicher’s trademark clarity is an ideal setting for the detached yet always beautiful and profound quality of Winstone’s voice.

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