JAZZ: Singers who nearly got away – part #1

Tony Andrews writes ...

If you read my ramblings about Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday then you will know I promised to write a series to highlight singers past and present who in my opinion have immense talent and did get acclaim but not in the bundles thrown at Ella and Billie etc.

I am going to start with a complete contradiction and feature a singer who is currently enjoying accolades and acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, Europe and especially Scandinavia. Norma Winstone is in my opinion the finest pure Jazz singer from the UK (ever) and deserves every good thing said about her. She is in her mature years and currently singing better than she did in the early 70s.

She is not frightened to take huge risks with projects such as the superb CD "It's later than you think" with the hugely talented Colin Towns and the NDR Big Band. I had the great pleasure to see the whole CD re-created at Cadogan Hall as part of The London Jazz Festival a few years back and I have rarely had such an exciting and more fullfilling experience.  The CD covers material by Leonard Cohen "Sisters of Mercy" Joni Mitchell "Big yellow taxi" and a most amazing effort by Elvis Costello "15 Petals".

My favourite song is by Colin Towns "Watching John" which is hypnotic to say the least. Just to put the record straight Colin Towns made a huge amount of money writing TV and film music inclding the very non Jazz music for Cadfael which I could not believe to be so medievil sounding but comtemporary.  Colin has now done the right thing and plowed a lot of the money back in to do Jazz extravagances and Provocateur Records. If you get a chance to see Colin Towns Mask Orchestra do so, I saw them with Norma Winstone and another lovely singer Maria Pia Devito at The QEH with 113 musicians on stage, mindblowing.

Norma Winstone also has another interesting feature and came from an ordinary background in Dagenham Essex not far from my home town. The school must have had something magical in the water because it also provided another global success story in Jazz, Comedy and Acting in Dudley Moore and they were of the same era, how spooky for such talent to be spawned so humbly.

Norma has so many CD's out it is not possible to mention them all. She has had outstanding success on one of my all type favourite labels ECM. The inspiration behind ECM is German master of all things good Manfred Eicher. He knows a good thing and produces the most superb recordings ever and easily lead in this area alone. I believe Norma is about to release a new CD on ECM but her last "Distances" is a masterpiece with Glauco Venier on Piano and Klaus Gesing on Bass Clarinet and Soprano Saxophone The music is great and for all of you Hi-Fi nuts the recording so lifelike as to be a breathtaking.  Check her out and her website and go to see her live.

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