JazzTimes 10: Landmark ECM Albums

In honor of the label’s 50th anniversary, a celebration of 10 crucial releases

9. Norma Winstone: Distances (2008)
British singer Norma Winstone couldn’t sound like anyone else if she tried. Her husky, whispery voice demands a spacious approach from whomever happens to be accompanying her. On Distances, that’s pianist Glauco Venier and multi-reedist Klaus Gesing. Their long tones, resonance, and harmonic complexity (with frequent dissonances) create a looming shadow over the entire proceeding—a sort of comforting spookiness. Notably, the two accompanists also do the bulk of the improvising: Winstone’s trademark wordless improvisations are few and far between on Distances. Instead, the album draws its power from her dulcet timbre, her flawless diction and phrasing, and her dramatic use of economy; nobody makes an entrance like Norma Winstone.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.