Norma Winstone and John Taylor ‘In Concert’ CD (Enodoc) 4/5

There’s something exceptionally ‘feel-good’ about this release. Recorded in August 1988 at The Guildhall School of Music, the revered duo were asked to give a concert having just finished teaching there. Arranged at short notice, the warmth and good humour of the recording permeates its way through the audience. There’s a wonderful atmosphere to the session, one which we can all now enjoy thanks to the cd release of this concert.

In their long and illustrious careers pianist, Taylor and vocalist Winstone have of course worked together on numerous occasions, most notably on the ECM label alongside Kenny Wheeler with “Azimuth”. This 1988 concert recording is a superb example of their musical partnership, with the tunes performed ranging from composers Leonard Bernstein to Egberto Gismonti, Ralph Towner, Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck. Yet no matter who wrote the tune, there’s an individualistic presence and style that sparkles from the duo’s collaboration, with the two musicians always willing to put their own inimitable stamp on proceedings.

The recording features eight tracks and lasts for an hour. There are some great examples throughout the concert of how the duo aren’t afraid to challenge each other musically. Taylor appears to push and probe at times, inviting Winstone to respond, as she does, in an improvisational and engaging way. Steve Swallow’s “Ladies In Mercedes” is a prime example, with Winstone’s whimsical lyrics working perfectly over Taylor’s expressive piano. It’s also wonderful to hear the more thoughtful side of the duo’s partnership, as on Egberto Gismonti’s “Cafe”. Taylor’s stylistic approach is mesmerising on tunes such as Brubeck’s “In your own sweet way” and Taylor’s rhythmically effervescent own composition “Coffee Time”. The resplendent Towner/Winstone tune “Celeste” is a beautiful, reflective and ultimately uplifting end to the concert.

This is one of those albums that just feels right and is a pleasure to listen to and own. There’s so much to enjoy. A wonderful example of two highly respected musicians enjoying making music together, in a way that engages the audience with a clear sense of purpose, skill and understanding.

Mike Gates