The great British jazz singer Norma Winstone once again casts her net wide for source material for this third ECM album with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German clarinettist/saxophonist Klaus Gesing. Alongside the striking self-penned songs, there are pieces by idiosyncratic singer/songwriters Fred Neil, Nick Drake and Tom Waits, as well as tunes associated with the cinema, with contemporary pop and more.
They take a fresh approach to Madonna's "Live To Tell", and to Dave Grusin's "It Might Be You", as well as Ralph Towner's "A Breath Away" (now with lyrics by Norma) and "Bein' Green", a children's song elevated to jazz standard status by Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Ray Charles and others. "As Winstone moves ever farther from the Great American Songbook", All About Jazz observed, "it's certain that, with band mates as sympathetic as Gesing and Venier, there's precious little she can't do."
This adaptive and resourceful trio has been active for more than a decade. When the long-running duo of Venier and Gesing invited Winstone to join them for concerts, the singer recognized the potential for developing a group music with its own character, distinguished by Venier's highly original harmonisations and Gesing's approach to the bass clarinet in particular. Oscillating between rhythm and melody roles, he sounds like no other jazz soloist on the instrument.
Their first album as trio, Chamber Music (Universal), was recorded in 2002. It was followed by the Grammy-nominated Distances, recorded for ECM in 2007, and Stories Yet To Tell in 2009. Dance Without Answer was recorded in December 2012 in Lugano, with Manfred Eicher as producer.
Personnel: Norma Winstone (voice), Glauco Venier (piano), Klaus Gesing (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone)
(4 stars) As with the group's acclaimed earlier sessions for ECM, Dance Without Answer mingles Winstone lyrics to her partners' tunes with diverse and audaciously reimagined covers...Not much hurries, flusters or intensifies Winstone's cool delivery, but her range, control and relaxation in open musical spaces remain awesome, and her pure tones are acquiring a more gravelly informality with the years. --The Guardian, (John Fordham), January 17, 2014
(4 stars) Another wonderfully eclectic collection...Winstone confirms her position as one of the great jazz lyricists, the vocal line always enhanced by Gesing's innovative bass clarinet work and Venier's adventurous harmonisations. --Jazzwise, (Peter Quinn), February 2014
(4 stars) There's a breadth of music here that is quite staggering without being overpoweringly eclectic...Up there with Distances, their best work together, the inclusion of the complex title track as well as the moving 'It Might Be You' just two of many reasons to discover this remarkable record. --Marlbank, (Stephen Graham), January 16, 2014
(4 stars) A serene selection of unfamiliar melodies, pure-toned clarinet solos, warm acoustic pianistics and silky vocals delivered in English and Friulian, a regional Italian dialect. A long way from the Great American Songbook. --Evening Standard, (Jack Massarik), January 24, 2014
Dance Without Answer is another major work from three musicians perfectly in harmony with each other. The recording is exquisite, too. --The Jazz Breakfast, (Peter Bacon), January 29, 2014