Dance Without Answer

Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing, Glauco Venier


The great British jazz singer Norma Winstone once again casts her net wide for source material for this third ECM album with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German clarinetist / saxophonist Klaus Gesing. Alongside new pieces by Winstone/Gesing and by Venier, the trio covers tunes by singer-songwriters Nick Drake, Fred Neil and Tom Waits. They take a fresh approach to Madonna’s “Live To Tell”, and to Dave Grusin’s “It Might Be You”, as well as Ralph Towner’s “A Breath Away” (now with lyrics by Norma) and “Bein’ Green”, a children’s song elevated to jazz standard status by Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Ray Charles and many more. “As Winstone moves ever farther from the Great American Songbook,” All About Jazz observed, “it’s certain that, with band mates as sympathetic as Gesing and Venier, there’s precious little she can’t do.”

Die große britische Jazzsängerin Norma Winstone wirft für ihr drittes ECM-Album mit dem italienischen Pianisten Glauco Venier und dem deutschen Klarinettisten und Saxophonisten Klaus Gesing ihr Netz auf der Suche nach musikalischem Material erneut weit aus: Neben neuen eigenen Songs von Winstone/Gesing und von Venier interpretiert das Trio auch Stücke der Singer-Songwriter Nick Drake, Fred Neil und Tom Waits. Sie finden genauso einen frischen Ansatz für Madonnas „Live To Tell“ und Dave Grusins „It Might Be You“ wie für Ralph Towners „A Breath Away“ (nun mit einem Text von Norma Winstone) und „Bein’Green“, ein Kinderlied, das einst durch die Interpretationen von Frank Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Ray Charles und anderen den Status eines Jazzstandards bekam. „Während Winstone sich immer weiter vom Great American Songbook wegbewegt,“ beobachtete die US-Website All About Jazz „wird deutlich, dass es kaum etwas gibt, was sie im Verein mit so einfühlsamen Bandkollegen wie Gesing und Venier nicht zustande brächte.“
Featured Artists Recorded

December 2012, Auditorio RSI - Radio Svizzera, Lugano

Original Release Date


  • 1Dance Without Answer
    (Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing)
  • 2Cucurrucucu Paloma
    (Norma Winstone, Tomas Mendez)
  • 3High Places
    (Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing)
  • 4Gust Da Essi Viva
    (Novella Cantarutti, Glauco Venier)
  • 5A Tor A Tor
    (Traditional, Glauco Venier)
  • 6Live To Tell
    (Madonna Ciccone, Patrick Leonard)
  • 7It Might Be You
    (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Dave Grusin)
  • 8Time Of No Reply
    (Nick Drake)
  • 9San Diego Serenade
    (Tom Waits)
  • 10A Breath Away
    (Norma Winstone, Ralph Towner)
  • 11Bein' Green
    (Joe Raposo)
  • 12Slow Fox
    (Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing)
  • 13Everybody's Talkin'
    (Fred Neil)
The third ECM album by the trio of Great British jazz singer Norma Winstone, Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German clarinetist / saxophonist Klaus Gesing was recorded in December 2012 at Auditorio Radiotelevisione svizzera, Lugano, with Manfred Eicher as producer.

Dance Without Answer pools material from diverse sources. Alongside the striking self-penned songs, there are pieces by idiosyncratic singer/songwriters Fred Neil, Nick Drake and Tom Waits, as well as tunes associated with the cinema, with contemporary pop, with a children’s television show and more.

The album is bookended by farewells. The opening title track began life as an instrumental by Klaus Gesing called “Tanz ohne Antwort” (“Dance Without Answer”). Norma translated its title and outlined a lyrical plot to match the music’s bittersweet moods, drawing out a tale of incomplete goodbyes. Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” has the last word, its protagonist in search of some companionable silence, beyond the reach of the world’s babble. A folk scene favourite before it became associated with John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy movie, it is a piece that has been in the Winstone’s trio’s live repertoire from the beginning.

For Klaus Gesing’s tune “High Places” Norma added lyrics inspired by the French Canadian film Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve. “I’m not so much telling the story of the film, as responding to its atmosphere. A lot of my lyrics are ‘filmic’ in fact. I tend to think visually when I’m casting around for words.“

Further connections to film include Tomasz Mendez’s “Cucurrucucu Paloma”. Norma loved Caetano Veloso’s version, which is heard in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk To Her, and penned her own English words for the tune. Dave Grusin’s “It Might Be You” was the theme song of Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie. And “Bein’ Green” derives from the Muppet Show. “It was Klaus’ idea to try that,” Winstone says, “but we’re all staunch Muppet fans. It’s an interesting little song – about outsiders, really. No wonder many jazz musicians have been drawn to it”. The long list includes Sinatra, Ray Charles, Stan Kenton, and Shirley Horn. The Patrick Leonard/Madonna tune “Live To Tell” is another one that has attracted the attention of improvisers over the years. Glauco Venier brought it to the trio after hearing Bill Frisell’s version. Winstone honours the shape of the song (“we’re closer to Madonna’s version than Bill’s”).

Tom Waits’s “San Diego Serenade”, played as a duet for voice and bass clarinet, has been a staple of the group’s live work, and was recorded in an earlier version in 2002 for their debut album “Chamber Music”.

Norma has, on a number of previous occasions, added lyrics to Ralph Towner tunes. A comrade of long standing, Towner recorded with the Winstone/Taylor/Wheeler Azimuth trio in 1979. “A Breath Away” is drawn from Ralph’s 1995 recording “Lost and Found”.

The album’s Italian component works some striking contrasts. “Gust Da Essi Viva”, a poem by Novella Cantarutti, who wrote in Friulian dialect, was previously set by Glauco for symphony orchestra and the Big Band Udine. “A Tor A Tor” is a Friulian filastrocca, a bouncing nursery rhyme set to music by Venier.

The sparse instrumentation – a reed instrument, a piano, a voice – adapts itself to all these different contexts: it has encouraged creativity rather than imposed limitations. Winstone clearly enjoys the sense of space in the music, and the silences that can be explored or allowed to resonate, as well as the improvisational flexibility that the players share.

“As Winstone moves ever farther from the Great American Songbook,” All About Jazz observed, “it's certain that, with band mates as sympathetic as Gesing and Venier, there's precious little she can't do.”

This adaptive and resourceful trio already has quite a history. Active for more than a decade already, its roots go back still further: Venier and Gesing have collaborated in musical projects since the mid-1990s, including a long-running duo. When they invited Norma to join them for concerts, the singer recognized the potential for developing a group music with its own character, distinguished by Venier’s highly original harmonisations and Gesing’s approach to the bass clarinet in particular. Oscillating between rhythm and melody roles, he sounds like no other jazz soloist on the instrument.

Their first album as trio, Chamber Music, was recorded in 2002 and released by Universal Music in Austria. This was followed by the Grammy-nominated Distances, recorded for ECM in 2007, and Stories Yet To Tell in 2009.
2024 June 02 Sendesaal Bremen, Germany