Norma Winstone & Kit Downes


Biography Norma Winstone & Kit Downes

Norma Winstone & Kit Downes

Norma Winstone
Norma Winstone was born in London and first attracted attention in the late sixties when she shared the bill at Ronnie Scott’s club with Roland Kirk.

Although she was known initially for evolving her own wordless approach to improvisation, her extraordinary versatility means she is equally at home with the standards repertoire, performing with small groups, orchestras and big bands.

She joined Mike Westbrook, Michael Garrick and sang with John Surman, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs and John Taylor, and worked extensively with many of the major European names and visiting Americans.

In 1971 she was voted top singer in the Melody Maker Jazz Poll and subsequently recorded her own album ‘Edge of Time‘ for Decca, which although long deleted has now been re-released as a CD on the Dusk Fire label.

In the late seventies she joined pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler to form the group Azimuth, which was described by Richard Williams of The Times as “one of the most imaginatively conceived and delicately balanced of all contemporary chamber jazz groups“.

In this setting she combines the instrumental use of the voice with words, most of which she writes herself. Azimuth has recorded several albums on the ECM label (the first three of which have been re-issued as a CD boxed set).

Their CD ‘How It Was Then… Never Again‘ was released in May 1995, and received four stars in Down Beat magazine.

Her own legendary album ‘Somewhere Called Home‘ on the ECM label is widely considered to be a classic.

In recent years she has become known as a very fine lyricist, writing words to compositions by Ralph Towner, and Brazilian composers Egberto Gismonti and Ivan Lins (who has recorded her English lyrics to his song ‘Vieste‘). She has a special affinity with the music of Steve Swallow, and has written lyrics to many of his compositions, most notably ‘Ladies in Mercedes‘, which has become a standard.

Her voice has become an important part of the sound of Kenny Wheeler’s big band, and can be heard in this context on the ECM double CD ‘Music for Large and Small Ensembles‘ which also features John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Peter Erskine and John Taylor.

Her CD ‘Well Kept Secret‘, recorded with the legendary American pianist Jimmy Rowles, featuring George Mraz on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums, was given a four star rating in Down Beat magazine. Here Norma sings a selection of rare jazz standards, including Jimmy’s famous tune ‘The Peacocks’ for which she wrote lyrics and re-titled ‘A Timeless Place‘. This piece has since been recorded by other artists including jazz singer Mark Murphy, and The Swingle Singers.

Her CD ‘Manhattan In The Rain‘, with pianist Steve Gray, bassist Chris Laurence and special guest saxophonist Tony Coe consists of unusual and classic standards, described by Dave Gelly in The Observer as “A delectable set of songs… masterly and enthralling“.

A CD of duo performances with pianist John Taylor entitled ‘Like Song, Like Weather‘ on the Enodoc label was described by Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times as “…a superb example of state-of-the-art, imaginative, virtually beyond-definition singing“.

With American pianist Fred Hersch, she recorded a CD of Fred’s compositions with her lyrics: called ‘Songs and Lullabies‘, available in the US on Sunnyside, and in England on the Enodoc label. Vibraphonist Gary Burton makes a guest appearance on three tracks.

A recording ‘It’s Later than You Think‘, with the marvellous North German Radio big band, arranged and directed by the great British writer Colin Towns, was released in Autumn 2006 to coincide with a British tour. This was followed by an album with the same band, “Here’s A Song For You” which features an interesting collection of standards and contemporary songs arranged by the iconic Mike Gibbs.

She was one of the stars of the acclaimed Gilles Peterson ‘Jazz Britannia‘ programme shown on BBC 2, from The Barbican which featured influential music of British jazz musicians from the sixties and seventies, along with contemporary jazz artists

A double CD ‘Amoroso…only more so‘, with The Stan Tracey trio and saxophonist Bobby Wellins was released on the Trio label to some five star reviews… “This is standards-reinvention as it should be done” John Fordham, The Guardian. “Winstone’s voice and Wellins’ highly vocalised tenor seem made for each other…. Sheer class” Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times.

With Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German saxophonist/ bass clarinettist Klaus Gesing she has recorded four albums for the ECM label, the first of which, “Distances” was nominated for a Grammy. Their last recording, “Descansado” consists of new arrangements of music for films and features Italian cellist Mario Brunello and Norwegian percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken.

Norma also works with the Nikki Iles’ group “The Printmakers” comprising some of the UK’s finest musicians.

Kit Downes
is a BBC Jazz Award winning, Mercury Music Award nominated solo recording artist for ECM Records. He has toured the world playing piano, church organ and harmonium with his own bands (‘ENEMY’, ‘Troyka’ and ‘Elt’) as well as with artists such as Squarepusher, Bill Frisell, ‘Empirical‘, Andrew Cyrille, Sofia Jernberg, Benny Greb, Mica Levi and Sam Amidon.

Kit performs solo pipe organ and solo piano concerts – as well as playing in collaborations with saxophonist Tom Challenger, cellist Lucy Railton, composer Shiva Feshareki, saxophonist Ben van Gelder and with the band ‘ENEMY’ (with Petter Eldh and James Maddren).

He is also currently working with violinist Aidan O’Rourke, drummer Seb Rochford, composer Max de Wardener and in the organ trio ‘Deadeye’ with Reinier Baas and Jonas Burgwinkel.

He has written commissions for Cheltenham Music Festival, London Contemporary Orchestra, Biel Organ Festival, Ensemble Klang at ReWire Festival, the Scottish Ensemble, Cologne Philharmonie and the Wellcome Trust. He also performed as part of the National Theatre production of ‘Network’ from 2017-2018, featuring actor Bryan Cranston.

He has performed solo organ concerts at the Elb Philharmonie in Hamburg, Lausanne Cathedral, Flagey in Brussels, the Royal Albert Hall in London as well as the Southbank Royal Festival Hall, Rochester Jazz Festival (US), St Olafs Minneapolis (US), Stavanger Konserthus, Aarhus Philharmonic Musikhuset, Darmstadt Organ Festival, Stuttgart Organ Festival, Laurenskerke in Rotterdam, Orgelpark in Amsterdam, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Berlin Jazz Festival, and the BBC Proms amongst many others.

He holds a fellowship at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he himself studied and now teaches. He has twice been awarded 1st place in Downbeat’s Critics Poll Rising Star for Organ and Keyboard categories respectively, and his ECM records ‘Obsidian‘, ‘Dreamlife of Debris‘ and ‘Vermillion‘ have been released to much critical acclaim.

“It testifies to his world-class stature” – The Guardian

“One of the finest pianists of his generation” – Jazzwise

“Considerable chops and flowing imagination” – Downbeat

“An exceptional soloist” – Wormser Zeitung

“Kit Downes is the most impressive jazz pianist from England since John Taylor” – Hamburger Abendblatt

© 2010-2024 HIGHRESAUDIO