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Debbie Winter Quartet: Red Song

Bruce Lindsay By

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Classically-trained British vocalist Debbie Winter, formerly a member of Shifting Sands, makes her solo debut with Red Song. The recording may be brief, just 20 minutes, but in that time, Winter's quartet creates a rich and intriguing musical atmosphere with moments of breathtaking beauty.

Winter co-wrote the songs with pianist and arranger Aidan Shepherd, taking inspiration for the lyrics to four of them from Edward Hopper's paintings. Like much of Hopper's work, Red Song has a melancholy and often mysterious quality.

The musicians on Red Song are ideally-suited to these sensitive and articulate songs, showing empathy for the lyrics through their relaxed, atmospheric playing. Shepherd's piano is sparklingly light, bassist Laurence Garrett's rounded and full sound contrasts with Shepherd perfectly. Paul Robinson's expert drumming adds greatly to the moods and dramas of the songs—his years of work with Nina Simone and Van Morrison, as well as his membership of Shifting Sands, definitely bear fruit for this album.

Winter has a strong vocal technique and a rich, velvet, tone. At the lower end of her range she has touches of Dame Cleo Laine; higher up there are hints of American singer Whitney James, while at the top of her range her voice can take on a soprano saxophone-like quality. As a result, on "Red Song" or "Sunlight Waltz," her voice soars and flies over the trio's subtle performance, as if it were a fourth instrument.

On "Cinematic Dream"—inspired by Hopper's 1939 painting, "New York Movie"—Winter really pushes her voice into its upper limits, accentuating the loneliness and mystery of the lyrics. At the end of "Lost Melody"—based on Hopper's "Room In New York," from 1932—Winter achieves this same sense of loneliness and separation, by moving into wordless vocalese.

The brief but beautiful "Innocent Eyes"—inspired by Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," from Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1965), and written for Winter's daughter—is an object lesson in the combination of emotive and heartfelt vocals and restrained, subtle, musicianship.

Red Door is an emphatic solo debut from Winter. It marks her out, not only as a striking and affecting singer, but also an insightful, original lyricist and composer. An album-length recording seems like an obvious next step from this fascinating artist.

Track Listing: Debbie Winter: vocals; Aidan Shepherd: piano; Laurence Garrett: double bass; Paul Robinson: drums.

Personnel: Red Song; Sunlight Waltz; Innocent Eyes; Cinematic Dream; Lost Melody; Raven Sky.

Title: Red Song | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced

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