A Stone’s Throw Away – Norma Winstone’s Trio Sends out Ripples

Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing - Distances
Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing – Distances
Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing

Distances (ECM, 2008)

Trios offer a wonderful opportunity in musical dynamics and experimentation. There is also the third musician that can resolve musical tension that builds with the other two players. Often jazz trios include, bass, piano and drums, but there have been other musical configurations. British jazz vocalist Norma Winstone’s trio, includes Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German "reedman" Klaus Gesing, who has the added duty of anchoring an otherwise unworldly jazz that appears on the recording " Distances."

Similar to another ECM chanteuse, Susanne Abbuehl, Winstone also slows her arrangements down to a virtual halt. Her themes (both original lyrics and covers), revolve around drifters or people just passing through each other’s lives. A sense of alienation certainly comes through in the lyrics and also in the musical portion. The Cole Porter tune that appears on the recording, "Every Time We Say Goodbye," feels downright melancholic, as it should given the lyrical content, but the trio also strips the melodic content until it becomes a mere abstraction. And it works just fine.

The titular track shows off Winstone’s immaculate vocal phrasing. Her vocals glide over piano and bass clarinet. The minimalist arrangements that appear throughout the recording allow Winstone’s vocals to be the focal point. These sparse arrangements also bring focus to the lyrical content, much of which was penned by Winstone, who proves to not only be an exceptional vocalist, but also an exceptional poet.

The musicians cover a lot of ground from Cole Porter’s "Every Time We Say Goodbye" to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s lyrics (with the musical portion Erik Satie’s "Petite ouverture à danser"), and Peter Gabriel‘s "Here Comes the Flood". "Giant’s Gentle Stride" pays homage to American saxophonist John Coltrane and you will even find free calypso in the mix. While most of the music ambles along at a leisurely pace, "The Mermaid" picks up the pace and might even be called a frolic in comparison to the other tracks. And the closing track, "A Song for England" with its play on words, lends a gleeful quality to the recording.

Patricia Herlevi hosts the healing music blog, The Whole Music Experience and the community radio show, Global Heartthrob with KSVR-Mount Vernon, in Skagit County.

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