“Stories Yet To Tell” is the second ECM album from the British-German-Italian trio that made the Grammy-nominated “Distances” (a recording which also won the Top Jazz Vocal CD prize of France’s Academie du Jazz and contributed to Norma Winstone’s winning of Germany’s Skoda Jazz Ahead Award for services to European jazz). If the awards have emphasized the trio’s remarkable singer, this is nonetheless a real band with a unique ensemble identity.
Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing are three adventurous musicians united, in this project, by a profound feeling for song. The stark instrumentation – voice, piano, bass clarinet/soprano sax - seems never to limit their repertoire, but to encourage the players to explore widely, and to make musical use of the available space.
Jazz ballads, old and new, find their place alongside – for instance – adaptations of Friulian folk songs, and ‘chamber’ pieces influenced by classical or contemporary composition. Textures, colours and rhythms may be drawn from scattered, surprising sources: a thirteenth century Troubadour ballad, an Armenian cradle song and more.
The musicians play songs from Mexico’s Armando Manzanero to Armenia’s Komitas, to Wayne Shorter. What they take they make their own, much of the material they compose themselves, and most of the words are Norma’s. As both singer and lyricist she has few contemporary peers: her words seem to float up from the music’s expressive core.
The trio is a band in which creative responsibilities are very equally shared. Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing have collaborated in musical projects since the mid-90s, including a long running duo. They invited Norma to join them for Italian concerts a decade ago and the singer soon recognized a potential for developing a trio music with its own specific character, meanwhile documented on three outstanding recordings: “Chamber Music” (Universal, released 2004), “Distances” (ECM, 2008), and the present disc, produced by Manfred Eicher in Udine in 2009.
As with its predecessors, “Stories Yet To Tell” reveals Venier and Gesing as gifted composers and distinctive instrumentalists. Venier’s choice of notes and his harmonizations are strikingly original, and Gesing has established his own methodology for bass clarinet in particular, vaulting between rhythm and melody functions, and matching textures and phrases with Winstone’s subtle voice.
From the beginning of her life in jazz, Norma Winstone has wanted to be part of the ensemble, rather than a frontwoman. She uses her voice ‘instrumentally’, to interweave improvised lines with her partners and participate in the blossoming harmony. When singing texts, she draws her fellow musicians ever deeper into the storylines sketched by the lyrics, until the plot is illuminated from three perspectives.
Norma Winstone, long-established as Britain’s most distinctive jazz singer, came to ECM in 1977 as a member of the Azimuth trio with John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, recording five albums for the label with this formation: “Azimuth”, “The Touchstone”, “Départ”, “Azimuth ‘85” and “How it was then...Never Again” (the first three of these were reissued as a box set in 1994). She also appears on Kenny Wheeler’s “Music For Large And Small Ensembles” (1990), Eberhard Weber’s “Fluid Rustle” (1979) and on her own “Somewhere Called Home” (1986), accompanied by John Taylor and Tony Coe.
Glauco Venier graduated in organ and composition from the Udine Conservatory in 1985, then took private lessons with Franco d’Andrea before heading to Boston’s Berklee School. He has led his own bands since 1990 and played with a wide cross section of Italian and international musicians including Enrico Rava, Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Joey Baron, Paolo Fresu and dozens more.
Klaus Gesing studied at the Den Hague Conservatory, and his classical background is as significant for his writing as his jazz associations. As a player his unique approach to the bass clarinet has drawn much attention. Currently he is a member of the Anouar Brahem Quartet and he appears on Brahem’s ECM album “The Astounding Eyes of Rita”.
A European tour is currently being set up for the Winstone/GesingVenier trio. Details soon at
www.ecmrecords.com and www.normawinstone.com