new CD with the NDR Bigband is a lesson in how to sing contemporary songs with ease, style and a depth that comes from a place that most singers reach for but never realise. Her experience and love of all good songs and songwriters shines through on this album, which includes songs by Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman. Norma’s career is well documented with musicians such as John Taylor, Ralph Towner, Michael Garrick, Kenny Wheeler, Fred Hersch and Jimmy Rowles.
Norma Winston on Provocateur Records
Norma Winstone’s new CD with the NDR bigband ‘It’s Later than you think’ is a lesson in how to sing contemporary songs with ease, style and a depth that comes from a place that most singers reach for but never realise.
Her experience and love of all good songs and songwriters shines through on this album; including songs by Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman. A new stunning contemporary Norma Winstone without peer.
In ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ we really see paradise and the parking lot. Costello’s driving jazz felt ‘15 Petals’ was waiting for the NDR band to drive it further, with Norma singing what is in fact a sad song in her own unique way. Leonard Cohen’s ‘Sisters of Mercy’ is not the obvious arrangement or delivery. Towns’ own ‘Watching John’ has a surreal beauty and Jaco Pastorius’ ‘Liberty City’ sees everyone in riotous celebration. The Scottish rock song ‘Take the Floor’ is highly unusual but works perfectly in this setting – natural! ‘Feels Like Home’ by Randy Newman simply hasn’t felt like this before, and there are many versions of this song. With the sun coming up through ‘Harlem Nocturne’ and ‘Smoke Gets in your eyes’ it’s a wonder Norma hasn’t done this before.
Norma’s career is well documented with musicians such as John Taylor, Ralph Towner, Michael Garrick, Kenny Wheeler, Fred Hersch and Jimmy Rowles. She recently featured very prominently in Gilles Petersons ‘Jazz Brittania’ concert, CD and also the TV series.
Colin Towns’ work for the NDR Bigband has been performed worldwide from China to the Chicago Jazz Festival where they were hailed by audience and critics as the outstanding success. This partnership shows the results of a unique and powerful collaboration spanning 13 years. The unique and highly treasured NDR Bigband from Hamburg have worked with many great musicians including Wayne Shorter, Chet Baker, Albert Mangelsdorff and Vince Mendoza. Their programmes continually explor
e the constant changes in music, through new productions with forward looking musicians, returning a vibrant view of music in the 21st Century. The band is packed with soloists such as Nils Landgren, Christof Lauer, Claus Stötter and Vladyslav Sendecki and were recently referred to as the jazz equivalent of the Ensemble Modern. The last time they performed in the UK was with Abdullah Ibrahim in 2002.
Colin’s past albums with the NDR include 2001’s The Theatre Of Kurt Weill which was released on ACT Records to major critical and commercial success. To date this project has been performed in many cities including Hamburg, Berlin, Beijing and Bilbao. Colin also collaborated with the NDR on Frank Zappa’s Hot Licks (And Funny Smells) performing over 30 concerts in Germany so far, the CD was released in Germany in the Spring of 2005 receiving extensive press (20+ interviews and reviews, 2 major magazine front covers, 4 radio concert broadcasts, 8+ radio interviews and it also charted in the German charts). UK release of this album is due 4th September 2006. This Autumn a new work by Colin for the NDR Choir and bigband will be recorded.
‘It’s Later than you think’ will feature as part of an Arts Council England funded double bill touring the UK in November.
Selected Norma Winstone Recording’s
Norma Winstone was born in London and first attracted attention in the late sixties when she shared the bill at Ronnie Scott’s club with Roland Kirk. Although she began her career singing jazz standards, she became involved in the avant garde movement, exploring the use of the voice in an experimental way and evolving her own wordless approach to improvisation.
She joined groups led by Mike Westbrook, Michael Garrick and sang with John Surman, Kenny Wheeler, Michael Gibbs and John Taylor, and worked extensively with many of the major European names and visiting Americans. In 1971 she was voted top singer in the Melody Maker Jazz Poll and subsequently recorded her own album Edge of Time for Decca, which although long deleted has now been re-released as a CD on the Disconforme label.
In the late seventies she joined pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler to form the group AZIMUTH, which was described by Richard Williams of The Times as … ” one of the most imaginatively conceived and delicately balanced of all contemporary chamber jazz groups “. In this setting she combines the instrumental use of the voice with words, most of which she writes herself. AZIMUTH has recorded several albums on the ECM label (the first three of which have been re-issued as a CD boxed set). Their CD How It Was Then… Never Again was released in May 1995, and received four stars in Down Beat magazine.
Her own legendary album “Somewhere Called Home” on the ECM label is widely considered to be a classic. In recent years she has become known as a very fine lyricist, writing words to compositions by Ralph Towner, and Brazilian composers Egberto Gismonti and Ivan Lins (who has recorded her English lyrics to his song ‘Vieste’). She has a special affinity with the music of Steve Swallow, and has written lyrics to many of his compositions, most notably ‘Ladies in Mercedes’, which has become a standard. Her voice has become an important part of the sound of Kenny Wheeler’s big band, and can be heard in this context on the ECM double CD “Music for Large and Small Ensembles” which also features John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Peter Erskine and John Taylor.
Her CD “Well Kept Secret”, recorded with the legendary American pianist Jimmy Rowles, and featuring George Mraz on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums, was given a four star rating in Down Beat magazine. Here Norma sings a selection of rare jazz standards, including Jimmy’s famous tune ‘The Peacocks’ for which she wrote lyrics, and re-titled ‘A Timeless Place’. This song has now been recorded by other singers including Mark Murphy, and is featured on the latest CD by The Swingle Singers. Norma appeared at the 1997 Monterey Jazz Festival.
Her CD “Manhattan In The Rain”, with pianist Steve Gray, bassist Chris Laurence and special guest saxophonist Tony Coe consists of unusual and classic standards, described by Dave Gelly in The Observer as “A delectable set of songs… masterly and enthralling”. Her duo recording with pianist John Taylor “Like song, like weather…” was described by Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times as “…a superb example of state-of-the-art, imaginative, virtually beyond-definition singing.” Recent years have found her collaborating with both Scandinavian and Italian musicians in both those countries, and making guest appearances along with Kenny Wheeler on French and Belgian projects to which she also contributed lyrics. As always, she involves herself in musically interesting and challenging projects whilst continuing her long-standing musical partnerships with Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor.
In 2001, she won the title of Best Vocalist at the BBC Jazz Awards hosted by Humphrey Lyttleton and Jools Holland at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. She toured in England with the group ‘4 In Perspective’: pianist Fred Hersch, Kenny Wheeler and percussionist Paul Clarvis. This association led to a duo recording with Fred, “Songs and Lullabyes” (his music and her words) which features Gary Burton guesting on some tracks, and is due for release on the American label “Sunnyside” in March 2003.
Norma toured the US in April 2003 in a work “Leaves of Grass”, compositions by Fred Hersch based on the poetry of Walt Whitman, and featuring a lineup of some outstanding American musicians including singer Kurt Elling. She recorded with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German saxophonist Klaus Gesing a collection of intriguing and original works which she calls “Poems and Miniatures”. Her most recent recording projects are a recording for ECM with Ralph Towner and a recording with Hamburgs NDR bigband with arrangements by Colin Towns titled “It’s Later than you Think” for Provocateur Records to be released in Germany Spring 2006 and in the UK later that year.