Norma Winstone

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Biography of Norma Winstone

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 (above) and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler (below) 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 piece has since been recorded by other artists including jazz singer Mark Murphy, and The Swingle Singers.

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".

A CD of duo performances with pianist John Taylor entitled "Like Song, Like Weather" has been released on the Enodoc label in the UK and was described by Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times as "...a superb example of state-of-the-art, imaginative, virtually beyond-definition singing."

In July 2001, she won the title of Best Vocalist in the BBC Jazz Awards hosted by Humphrey Lyttleton and Jools Holland at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall.
She recently collaborated with American pianist Fred Hersch, to record a CD of Fred’s compositions with her lyrics: called “Songs and Lullabies”, available in the US on Sunnyside, and in England on the Enodoc label. Vibraphonist Gary Burton makes a guest appearance on three tracks.
Last year saw the appearance of the "Steve Swallow Project" featuring Tim Garland and the brilliant young UK pianist, Gwilym Simcock.
She has also been working with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German saxophonist Klaus Gesing, which has led to the release of a highly praised CD “Chamber Music” on the Universal label, which has also become the name of the group. They will be appearing at the Bath International Festival in May 2006, with a guest appearance by Jarrod Cagwin, percussionist with Rabih Abou-Khalil.
A new recording “It’s Later than You Think”, with the marvellous North German Radio big band directed by British writer Colin Towns, will be released in Autumn 2006 to coincide with a British tour.

© Copyright 1998 - 2006 Norma Winstone

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