Leave egos be­hind

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music Reviews - RAY COMISKEY

NORMA WIN­STONE Dis­tances ECM This su­perb album com­bines Norma Win­stone’s gifts as a jazz singer and lyri­cist with two sim­patico mu­si­cians: pi­anist Glauco Ve­nier and bass clar­inetist/so­prano sax­o­phon­ist Klaus Gesing. Dis­tances is a prime ex­am­ple of ego-free mu­sic-mak­ing. Their pro­gramme, em­brac­ing orig­i­nals, folk and classical mu­sic, Coltrane, a piece by 1970s Ge­n­e­sis rocker Peter Gabriel, and even a spon­ta­neously cre­ated ca­lypso, is also a mi­cro­cosm of where jazz is at now.

Ciant is typ­i­cal of the mul­ti­cul­tural sources that con­tem­po­rary jazz mu­si­cians now cus­tom­ar­ily ref­er­ence. It mar­ries a Satie com­po­si­tion to a lyric in di­alect by Ital­ian movie di­rec­tor Pier Paolo Pa­solini. Ciant is beau­ti­fully sung in pli­ant, sym­pa­thetic di­a­logue with pi­ano and so­prano, un­der­lin­ing the fact that Ve­nier and Gesing, who have ac­knowl­edged Win­stone’s in­flu­ence on their own work, are bril­liant ac­com­pa­nists and soloists.

Gesing’s so­los, par­tic­u­larly on Ciant, the dream­like, nos­tal­gic Re­mem­ber­ing the Start of a Nev­erend­ing Story, and Gabriel’s quixotic Here Comes the Flood, show a re­mark­able ca­pac­ity for grasp­ing the mood of the mu­sic. And Ve­nier’s in­sight­ful re­sponses to both his col­leagues through­out are com­pelling with­out ever de­mand­ing at­ten­tion.

The com­mu­nal spirit isn’t con­fined to the per­for­mances. In­di­vid­u­ally, Ve­nier and Gesing con­trib­uted all but two of the orig­i­nals used, but Win­stone’s in­tu­itive, po­etic ca­pac­ity for writ­ing lyrics that match the cadence of the words and what they mean to the melodic line, en­hanc­ing the im­pact of both, is un­canny.

The de­cep­tively sim­ple and melan­choly line of Ve­nier’s Dis­tance, for ex­am­ple, is turned into a poignant re­flec­tion on a fail­ing re­la­tion­ship, sung with sub­lime un­der­state­ment by Win­stone. In Gesing’s Gi­ant’s Gen­tle Stride, based on Gi­ant Steps, Win­stone salutes Coltrane’s spir­i­tual and artis­tic im­pact with al­most art­less sim­plic­ity.

Ul­ti­mately, only the best jazz mu­si­cians can take such di­verse ma­te­rial and turn it into some­thing per­sonal and sat­is­fy­ingly com­plete. That’s a mea­sure of what this trio has achieved here. www. mu­sic con­nec­tion.org.uk

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