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Album Review

Norma Winstone's refreshingly honest and understated vocal talents have gone largely under-recognized in the United States, but with her return to the ECM label, perhaps listeners worldwide will give her another try. Singing better than ever while exploring the deeper regions of human strength and frailty, Winstone and her outstanding, drummerless group featuring the excellent team of Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German reedman Klaus Gesing, are simply matched in heaven, high above the clouds and this mortal coil. All hushed tones or thematic nuances are played to the hilt with wisps of smoke and a modicum of smoldering heat. Venier is quite accomplished, following in footsteps of the great ECM pianists like Bobo Stenson, Mike Nock, and the introspective Keith Jarrett, while Gesing plays poetic bass clarinet and soprano saxophone as echoes in the "distance" of the horizons of a new day. A consummate interpreter, Winstone adopts the standard "Everytime We Say Goodbye" in a most poignant, languid fashion aside Gesing's fox hunt soprano tones and Venier's delicate musings, while taking Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood" in echoes of impending fear and very understated regret. Then there's "A Song for England," an entertainingly funny and self-deprecatingly pitiful look at her home country, with a light bass clarinet groove, some scat, and spare lyrics about British weather and the moods it incites. Naturally melancholy, "Distance" weaves the common theme of hauntingly unfulfilled love into the mix, "Drifter" is a tip-toeing, spatial piece, typically ECM chamber style, with lyrics stating her male friend "always knew he'd do what he wanted to do, the way that a wind changes its direction will turn, and leave you wondering, where did summer go?" Venier composed several of these selections with an acute vision of dreamy imagery, with "Gorizia" in a traipsing waltz with Winstone's wordless vocals, while "The Mermaid" is the ultimate surreal fantasy myth visage, as scratched-out chicken rhythms are juxtaposed against probing and zinged piano techniques while the singer tells her siren tale. The most optimistic track is the reflective, ongoing idealistic "Remembering the Start of a Never Ending Story," while the alluring "Giant's Gentle Stride" holds a spirit song mentality close to heart in a deeper mode, with Gesing's lilting soprano and Venier's wonderful, minimalist piano chord variations. From beginning to end, this recording is a beautiful document of Winstone's intelligent and lissome persona fully realized, and with the empathetic accompaniment wrapped up in this uniquely compelling music, has to rank as her very best recorded effort in a career that is still gaining creative momentum. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Customer Reviews

It's like Heaven

These songs; all these songs are very peaceful. I may be able to fall asleep. =) =D =P =]


Born: September 23, 1941 in London, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Norma Winstone has a lissome voice, agile and expressive, and she's a fine improviser as well. That's not to say she's a vocal athlete, however; although she's known for her wordless improvisations, Winstone is a fine interpreter of lyrics and composed melody -- a plain-speaking, rhythmically direct singer who gets to the heart of the matter quickly and effectively. Winstone played piano and organ in her youth. She began singing semi-professionally by the age of 17, influenced by conventional jazz...
Full Bio
Distances, Norma Winstone
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  • $11.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Avant-Garde Jazz
  • Released: Jan 01, 2008

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