Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing, Glauco Venier
(Randolph Hotel, April 24th 2011,part of Oxford Jazz Festival, review by Paul Guest, photo credit: Barker Evans)
My first encounter with Norma Winstone in concert was at the London Jazz Festival in November last year. I remember that I had been apprehensive beforehand, but that her trio's performance had dramatically changed my perspective: music which I hadn't known at all had brought me the same feelings of contentment as the renewal of an old friendship.
Now I find myself in Oxford to hear their beautiful music once more, as part of the Oxford Jazz Festival. You couldn’t have had a more perfect day, with Oxford basking in the sunshine. I decided to arrive at the Randolph Hotel early to get the feel of the venue, to take stock of the audience before the concert began.
In London I had been greeted by a wealth of young people. I wanted to know whether this transcended to the Oxford Jazz scene: Not really. I sat in the bar waiting and all I saw was grey hair after white hair, but then, late - as ever - a flock of young professionals came through the doors, thank god!
On first impressions, the venue was dire; it was the room where I would have had my sixth birthday party with a cheap DJ, party balloons and probably a twister mat: Yes, my parents were that cruel to me. Not that I’m a usual jazz goer but the seating seemed much too formal, I really wanted to be in a dark room with the spotlight on Norma; you know, something much more intimate, because that is how I feel when I listen, like Norma’s best friend, it can be very personable.
“I wear flats for the sound check and heels for the gig” Norma said while adjusting her mic. The music began, instantly I had disappeared into a world of just the music; the venue that I hated didn’t matter; the damn photographer snapping photographs in front of me didn’t matter.
Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier are a trio matched in heaven; they can read each other like books and they also create beautiful music but not only do they create music but they give you story, a journey. That journey begins from the very first note and only ends at complete silence. Gesing’s well-placed harmonic lines slyly become the second voice with his beautiful velvety notes from either the bass clarinet or soprano sax that acted so versatile throughout the performance. Venier on the piano becomes a master of his craft visibly using both eyes and ear to deliver a compilation of chord, melody and décor; he gives the piano some touch love. When Norma Winstone starts to sing the flower blossoms, the Barbra Streisand of Jazz; her beautiful lyrics combined with her sublime vocal colour of a deep red transport you from reality to another world; far away, somewhere unknown; you feel the floor disappear beneath you.
The programme was a mixture of work from the trio’s most recent album “Stories Yet To Tell” and the previous “Distances”.
During a chat with Norma she told me “I never remember the order… I didn’t even realise we were going to perform ‘Mermaid’… it just felt right, right key, right time” – It shows just how lost Norma is in the music too. Renditions of ‘Just Sometimes’, ‘Among the Clouds” and a personal favourite “Goddess” all portrayed immense beauty. Norma sings into the microphone as it if were a delicate rose. ‘Rush’ is most haunting, beautiful too.
Even the incredibly technical improvisations and the mass of talented, articulate scat singing that split up the trio’s softer songs came together to create something so perfectly infectious, in fact I found it really overwhelming. During the improvisation you had to search through a jungle of notes to find the melody- appropriately like a musical egg hunt.
I’ve read things about Norma that suggest she has found success late in the game; I disagree, her voice has matured into something of great beauty and almost like finding your soul mates, she has found two perfect musical partners in Venier and Gesing.
The magic of their music is that the Piano, Voice and Saxophone coalesce into one, one self, one existence.