I wrote recently here of the surprise of seeing Norma Winstone perform and my subsequent research into her illustrious jazz-vocal career. I’ve now listened to this wonderful eponymous album from Azimuth with Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and Ralph Towner and it is beautiful.
Mainly instrumental with Wheeler on trumpet and flugelhorn, Taylor on piano, organ and synthesizer, Towner on guitars, and Winstone on – to declare it also an instrument – voice.
Openers Siren’s Song and O are largely piano and voice pieces, Winstone not scatting but vocalising sounds, though on O, for example, she works in voice-tandem with Wheeler’s horn, matching the acrobatics of sound as well as echoing and debating. It is wonderful.
The title track is hypnotic, Taylor laying down a synth arpeggiator [though that may be a tautology] and this looped platform is layered with overdubbed vocals from Winstone – one, a series of sung sounds of long held notes; the other angelic harmonies hovering above – and then Wheeler’s horn joins in the fun to playfully dip in and out of the whole repeating and rising mix of sounds.
Penultimate The Tunnel merges the preceding approaches with beautiful piano to start and Winstone adds words to her singing above a synth layer again – travelling forever in the dark, darkness into blackness, there and back its always black, flying along on a rhythm track, darkness into blackness, into blackness – then more discordant horn, synth and vocals emerging in a whirl of sound. Haunting.