RALPH TOWNER / NORMA WINSTONE
An ECM artist for his entire musical career, US guitarist Ralph Towner has built up a unique body of work in his recordings for the label. Central to his oeuvre are his solo albums, the first of which, Diary, was issued 50 years ago. His new album First Light (now out on ECM) extends this great tradition, drawing inspiration from a broad palette of music. “My solo recordings have always included my own compositions in which there are trace elements of the many composers and musicians that have attracted me,” writes Towner in a liner note, citing the influence of, among others, George Gershwin, John Coltrane, John Dowland and Bill Evans: “I feel that At First Light is a good example of shaping this expanse of influences into my personal music.” In addition to his own pieces, Towner also plays Hoagy Carmichael’s “Little Old Lady”, Jule Styne’s “Make Someone Happy” and the traditional tune “Danny Boy.”
Since emerging on the London jazz scene in 1966 with an engagement at Ronnie Scott’s Club opposite Roland Kirk, Norma Winstone has worked with many of the innovators on the British and European scene. Her unique voice could be said to define an entire era of British and European Jazz, from re-inventions of The Great American Songbook to more abstract excursions into vocal timbre. She recorded five albums for ECM records with the group Azimuth, with John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler. Her own album for ECM, “Somewhere Called Home” has become one of the classic vocal albums of all time.
She is a highly gifted lyricist and has written words for many compositions by Steve Swallow, Kenny Wheeler , Fred Hersch , Jimmy Rowles and Ralph Towner (with whom she has most recently performed in a duo context)
With Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German saxophonist/ bass clarinettist Klaus Gesing she recorded four albums for the ECM label, the first of which, “Distances” was nominated for a Grammy and in 2008 won the Prix du Jazz Vocal in France. Their last recording, “Descansado” consists of new arrangements of music for films and features Italian cellist Mario Brunello and Norwegian percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken.
In 2007 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to music and in 2010 the Jazz Ahead Prize for her contribution to European jazz.
She was awarded an honorary Jazz Fellowship by Trinity College of Music and in 2013 was made an Honorary member of The Royal Academy of Music in London.
She continues at the forefront of international vocal jazz receiving the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from Jazz FM and recently being made an Honorary Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music
Ralph Towner, guitar
Norma Winstone, voice
Norma Winstone, voice