Norma Winstone ‘Edge of Time’ (Dusk Fire) CD/LP 4/5

Norma-WinstoneBritish jazz singer Norma Winstone occupies a unique place among musicians in the UK. She arrived on the scene after the mainstream sounds of the late 1950s and the bop revolution just when jazz was beginning to become more experimental in nature and this is reflected in the wonderful line-up of then young up and coming British (and British-based) instrumentalists who were out to demonstrate that there was a more adventurous side to big band music. This 1972 debut recording by Winstone surfaced at a time when jazz was indeed in a poor state of health. The musicians included future husband and pianist John Taylor, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, multi-reedist Alan Skidmore among many others. The emerging jazz-rock sound is hinted at with the addition of electric guitarist Gary Boyle and there are parts of the album which to this day remain highly experimental and represent a major departure at the time from other British jazz vocalists such as Cleo Laine who championed the standards repertoire. This is anything but routine. A typical example of Winstone’s early pioneering work is the be found in the extended excursion of wordless scatting and big band accompaniment on ‘Erebus (son of chaos)’. Arguably the finest number is the near ten and a half minute ‘Enjoy this day’ which opens with a pared down piano and vocal intro, but the inclusion of brass ensemble voicings leads into an uptempo vehicle that becomes increasingly free form in nature. Almost as radical in approach is ‘Shadows’ which starts slowly, but then develops a head of steam and this features an extended trumpet solo from Henry Lowther. On the title track, Norma Winstone once more engages in wordless scatting technique with fine interplay from the brass ensemble. The music is challenging at times and there is certainly a risk taking quality to the songs on this album that is admirable and sounds all the better for it. It is worth pointing out that releases on the Argo and Decca labels were only pressed in relatively small numbers and that with the renewed interest in 1960s and 1970s British jazz, the original vinyl has become highly collectable. It is especially welcome, then, that a small independent label such as Dusk Fire should take up on itself the task of re-issuing the prime UK jazz examples of the era and do so on both vinyl and CD formats catering to all connoisseurs needs. These are complete with original gatefold sleeve and inner sleeve notes that provide complete individual track listing and informative notes by Norma Winstone. Tim Stenhouse