Leave egos behind
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