Norma Winstone: Distances (2008)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
"Distance" opens this set in classic Winstone style. With music by pianist Glauco Venier, the singer's lyrics go to the heart of separation and distance in a relationship. Winstone is an instrumentalist singer, so even before one begins to get what the lyrics are actually saying, it's the total sound which moodily envelops the listener. The release of this, Winstone's first recording since 1998, is a genuine event and when listeners aren't hitting the repeat button it ought to send them scurrying for her earlier recordings, including those with the 1970s-1990s group Azimuth.
Previously a duo, Venier and Klaus Gesing (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone), have been Winstone's partners for the past eight years in creating music of an acute sparseness, soundscapes that would not be out of place accompanying an early Ingmar Bergman film. Emotionally understated, Winstone's husky sound is reminiscent of the mysterious, otherworldly domain of the great Helen Merrill in which less is much, much more.
"Drifter" is a gem of daring with Gesing music and Winstone lyrics. The melodic line is long and shifting with complex and enchanting rhythms. "Giant's Gentle Stride" and "Every Time We Say Goodbye" are elliptical salutes to Coltrane and without attempting to emulate Coltrane, the trio's version of latter Cole Porter song references Coltrane's 1960 recording with a radically stripped down version. Winstone's clear, spare enunciation is hauntingly accentuated by Gesing's clarinet. Closing the set is a brief, delightful bit of fun, "A Song for England."
.".Footsteps in an empty hallway," a line from "Remembering The Start of a Never Ending Story," aptly suggest the evocative quality of this set. As with all the best music, Winstone draws the listener into a creative web in which one is gratefully ensnared.
Track Listing: Distance; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Drifter; Giant's Gentle Stride; Gorizia; Ciant; The Mermaid; Here Comes The Flood; Remembering the Start of a Never Ending Story; A Song For England.
Personnel: Norma Winstone: voice; Glauco Venier: piano; Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone.
Record Label: ECM Records