Norma Winstone: Somewhere Called Home (ECM 1337)

Norma Winstone
Somewhere Called Home

Norma Winstone voice
John Taylor piano
Tony Coe clarinet, tenor saxophone
Recorded July 1986 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

After her stunning contributions to ECM via the enigmatic outfit known as Azimuth, jazz vocalist Norma Winstone broke out, or should I say broke in, her solo career with Somewhere Called Home. Joined by pianist John Taylor and Tony Coe on clarinet and tenor saxophone, she lends her sympathetic draw to the canonic tree while also hanging it with her own lyric adornments to the music of Egberto Gismonti, Ralph Towner, and Kenny Wheeler. The finished session is burnished to a dim reflection of yesteryear.

From the first measured steps of “Café,” Taylor’s gentle snowflakes and Coe’s fluted reeds are perfect companions. This is a song, like so many, of people and places intersecting in romances as fleeting as the words they’re built upon. The title track is a geodesic shape of ebony and ivory, splashed with the prismatic light of Winstone’s lilting phrasings. Patterns of loneliness emerge, seeking in the human voice the solace from which our pain also arises, and through which we purge the very same. Taylor and Coe run off, hand in harmonic hand, rushing through the wilds of memory, leaving Winstone to paint the veil of winter in “Sea Lady” with a translucent river of spring, where love flows into an ocean of forgetfulness. “Some Time Ago” opens with a mournful cry from Coe, dropping us talon-first into a sky of childhoods. Every chord from Taylor is a wisp of cloud, gone too soon in a dragon’s breath. Winstone spins the mythology of love into a jewel of hope that shines only in the sunlight of the future. She waits, breathing in the world so that she might exhale the promise of another morning, of another kiss, of another embrace. The delicate impressionisms of “Prologue” and “Out Of This World” recall at once the French symbolists and Manuel de Falla’s Psyche. Coe enchants with every flap of his virtuosic wings, lending his ethereal tenor to “Celeste.” This bittersweet exploration of songcraft catches up to us like an ancestral figure. Every breath of the sax is like that figure’s movements, by turns flesh and shadow, and brought to active life by the erosion of the high note, which chips away like a welding torch at the resolve of our solitude. “Hi Lili Hi Lo” takes comfort in the fact that in order to fall in love, one must jump, blindfolded, from a great height indeed. With “Tea For Two,” we at last get the assurance of a lover’s arms cradling not just our bodies, but also our souls. That gorgeous tenor returns for a final heave, ending where it all began, folded in the origami of time.

Winstone washes away the clothing of every sentiment, exposing the naked flesh of words. Her melodies swim in life’s tormented sea, compressing the universe into a salty teardrop of pure expression. While this date may not be for everyone, it is for me another candidate for inclusion in ECM’s Top 10. A profound, meditative masterpiece that will grow as you do.

<< Meredith Monk: Do You Be (ECM 1336 NS)
>> Mark Isham/Art Lande: We Begin (ECM 1338)

3 thoughts on “Norma Winstone: Somewhere Called Home (ECM 1337)

  1. Oh my – ECM top 10 indeed! We’ve had this CD since its release – and never tire of it. When we go on our outer banks vacations and enter the beach house we decide to rent and unpack – then chill out with a glass of wine, Norma Winstone is the perfect partner. What she does with Gismonti’s “Cafe” is magical…but then again, the entire release is magical – perfect, essentially. I’ve grown to love her middle release “Distances” nearly as much – but perhaps because this emerged first, it holds a special place with both my wife and I.

    1. Like so many releases in ECM’s back catalogue, my first time hearing this was when I reviewed it. I can’t wait to spend more time with it, as I am sure I will, in the years to come.

  2. A poignant reminder of the late John Taylor’s great talent and the wonderful music he and Norma Winstone created together-beautiful art and immensely moving.

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