When it comes to Norma Winstone, I’m pretty late to the party. She has been active since the seventies and has made many significant contributions to vocal jazz, specifically to the canon of jazz standards. Up until now, however, I don’t think I have been mature enough (as a singer) to appreciate her subtle approach to interpretation. Earlier this year I devoured her 1998 album, Manhattan In The Rain, but lately I can’t stop listening to Well Kept Secret, released just a year earlier.
There are so many things that stand out on Well Kept Secret I don’t know where to start. First, I’m in love with Norma Winstone’s mournful, light, effortless voice. She so delicately navigates the repertoire that it’s easy to forget how difficult the passages are. Notably difficult tunes include A Timeless Place, Prelude To A Kiss, and Joy Spring. Second, she has a knack for choosing standards that are a little off the beaten path. Her tunes are refreshing and unusually poignant. More than once during my first listen I had to start a song over again because the opening lyric was too perfectly beautiful (I’m looking at you “Remind me not to find you so attractive…”). Third, the arranging is simple, effective, and understated.
On top of all of the above, I love that Norma Winstone isn’t afraid to open with a ballad, end with a ballad, and have tons of ballads in between. And learning about a new crop of standards I was previously unfamiliar with makes me feel like an archeologist, unearthing something precious and beautiful.
This has been in my headphones // 01 where I talk about albums that have influenced me or are currently influencing me. This is a new blog feature so let me know what you think in the comments below.