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Album Review

Having already recorded for ECM as a member of Azimuth — the band also included her husband, pianist John Taylor, and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler — it seemed only a matter of time before Norma Winstone would contribute her fine and very original vocal talents to a solo disc for the label; hence listeners have 1986's Somewhere Called Home. It's not only a watermark of Winstone's career but, in the long line of modern vocal outings released since the romantic vocal tradition of Fitzgerald and Vaughan ended with free jazz and fusion, the disc stands out as one most original yet idyllic of vocal jazz recordings. Joined by Taylor and British saxophone legend Tony Coe, Winstone imparts equal measures of intimacy and drama to the proceedings. Sidestepping the noose that the standard vocal canon can impose, she reinvigorates the tradition with adaptations of material by such unlikely figures as Egberto Gismonti, Ralph Towner, Wheeler, and Bill Evans. Her cogent and stunning mix of economical phrases, tasteful embellishments, and airy vocal tones transform these songs into standards for the modern age. Even her go at two old nuggets, Arlen and Mercer's infrequently covered "Out of This World" and Vincent Youmans' "Tea for Two," produce rarefied results — glowing orbs of sound and lovingly forlorn slices of lyricism. Think of Helen Merrill's similarly delicate voice matched up with a bit of Blossom Dearie's coy sweetness and you get part of the picture (both of these singers have done equal justice to the standards covered here). The rest comes from Winstone's own very original interpretive skills and the excellent and equally tempered sentiment heard in both Coe and Taylor's playing. A must for fans looking for something as cozy as a golden age chanteuse, but without all the gymnastic scatting and carbon copy ways of many a contemporary jazz singer.


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
Somewhere Called Home, Norma Winstone
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  • $11.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Classical, Avant-Garde
  • Released: Jul 1986

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