Norma Winstone Trio
Vocalist Winstone’s new ECM release is a lean and beautiful album that includes pianist Glauco Venier and reed player Klaus Gensing. Winstone has a fairly narrow range, but she’s perfectly at home in it – her effortless and reedy delivery, utterly without vibrato, is marvelously subtle and transparent.
Many of the tunes, such as “Distance” and Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood,” unfold like a sunrise. At first, Winstone’s voice seems hardly there – a mere hint of color, a sigh – but slowly she envelops you in its warm glow. Her articulation is precise but not mannered, and the clarity of her delivery adds immeasurably to the meaning and impact of the words. Her phrasing, if any thing, is a bit too regular, but song like “Drifter” and “The Mermaid” benefit from her attention to the meaning of the lyrics and the flow of the folksong-like melodies.
Her pensive, understated approach really flowers at slow tempos. “Giant’s Gentle Stride” is a dreamy take on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” and the lagging pace brings out new aspects of the tune. But “Every Time We Say Goodbye” sounds a tad grim, since she doesn’t allow Cole Porter’s literate lyrics to lighten the mood as they should. Gensing and Venier are sympathetic and engaged accompanists – this is really an ensemble record – but they don’t always play with the same charisma as Winstone when they solo. Still, there’s much to treasure on this album by one of the British jazz scenes most affecting and original vocalists.
- Ed Hazell