384

Norma Winstone: Distances

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Norma Winstone: Distances For some, the most intimate setting of choice is the duo. For Norma Winstone, while working in larger groups over the past five decades, her recorded history with ECM suggests that this British vocalist's preferred setting is the trio—specifically one with piano/keyboards and a wind or brass instrument. From the minimalism-meets- improvisation of Azimuth to the more overtly song-based Somewhere Called Home (ECM, 1987), Winstone has been the definition of subtlety. Capable of singing complex melodies that would challenge most with their unorthodox intervals, Winstone's approach to interpretation has always favored nuance over unnecessary technical displays.

Eschewing conventional scatting, when Winstone uses her voice as an instrumentalal equal with her band mates, it's integrated on a deeper level—more about exploring the essence of song than "look-at-me" demonstrations. Distances is not the first recording Winstone has made with German reedman Klaus Gesing (here playing soprano sax and bass clarinet) and Italian pianist Glauco Venier, but it's a largely word-based alternative to Chamber Music (Universal, 2004), where her lyric-less vocals meshed with the more solo-filled approach of Gesing and Venier.

Winstone, Gesing and Venier explore songs ranging from original compositions to Cole Porter, Hubert Nuss and Peter Gabriel. "Ciant" is an innovative expansion of composer Erik Satie's spare and beautiful "Petite ouverture a Danser," with Winstone singing Pier Paolo Pasolini's poem, "Ciant da Lis Ciampanis," in its original language (Friulian, a Romantic language from northeastern Italy) with remarkable authenticity.

The trio's spacious approach is similar to that of singer Susanne Abbuehl, whose Compass (ECM, 2006) also avoided conventional form with a less-is- more approach to collective interpretation. Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye," amongst the most ethereal on record, opens with Gesing's soprano a cappella. Winstone enters with the familiar melody and words, Gesing winding in and around her serpentine-like. As Venier joins in the changes emerge gradually, his economical approach allows for greater temporal elasticity. Like Abbuehl, Winstone's vibrato is used sparingly, making it all the more effective.

"Giant's Gentle Stride," based on John Coltrane's classic "Giant Steps," bears little resemblance aside from the melody; Venier's changes and the more subdued tempo distanced completely from the typical "proof of chops" approach taken by most. Even when Venier steps up the energy for one of Gesing's few delineated solos of the set, it's still about finding the melody within those changes.

With Distances, Winstone has finally found a working trio that, while speaking with its own voice, rivals Azimuth's ability to deconstruct music, creates a surprisingly rich landscape with the most minimal of instrumentation and renders profound the slightest dynamic shift. Winstone's delivery of Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood," while referential, strays from its melody with understated interpretation, not melodramatic bravado.

With a clear intention to create an integrated soundscape despite each voice being distinctly impressive, Distances is a rare vocal album rooted clearly in the tradition, but which transcends it through a collective exegesis where the whole clearly exceeds the sum.

Track Listing: Distance; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Drifter; Giant's Gentle Stride (based on Giant Steps); Gorizia; Ciant; The Mermaid; Here Comes the Flood; Remembering the Start of a Never Ending Story; A Song for England.

Personnel: Norma Winstone: voice; Klaus Gesing: soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Glauco Venier: piano.

Title: Distances | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Unnatural  Events CD/LP/Track Review Unnatural Events
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Clean CD/LP/Track Review Clean
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 15, 2017
Read Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations CD/LP/Track Review Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "Another Day in Fucking Paradise" CD/LP/Track Review Another Day in Fucking Paradise
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 6, 2016
Read "I Can See Clearly Now" CD/LP/Track Review I Can See Clearly Now
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 7, 2017
Read "The Wrong Waltz" CD/LP/Track Review The Wrong Waltz
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "The Motorman's Son" CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Luck Child" CD/LP/Track Review Luck Child
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "April" CD/LP/Track Review April
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 29, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.