Norma Winstone

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Norma Winstone
Winstone in 2007
Winstone in 2007
Background information
Birth nameNorma Ann Short
Born (1941-09-23) 23 September 1941 (age 81)
Bow, London, England
Occupation(s)Singer, lyricist
Years active1960s–present

Norma Ann Winstone MBE (born 23 September 1941)[1] is an English jazz singer and lyricist. In a career spanning more than 50 years she is best known for her wordless improvisations. Musicians with whom she has worked include Michael Garrick, John Surman, Michael Gibbs, Mike Westbrook, as well as pianist John Taylor, who was her former husband.


Early years and education[edit]

Born as Norma Ann Short in Bow, East London, England, she was 10 years old when her family moved to Dagenham, Essex.[2] Encouraged by her primary school teacher, she applied for and won a scholarship to attend Saturday-school at Trinity Music College, and after passing her 11-plus exams, she went to Dagenham County High School (where Dudley Moore was then a senior pupil).[2] Like Moore, her music teacher there was Peter Cork (1926-2012).[3] At the age of 17 she discovered jazz, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson being played on Radio Luxembourg.[4]


Winstone began singing in bands around Dagenham in the early 1960s, and has said of her early experiences: "I've always been on the edge, always felt like I was swimming against the tide and somehow couldn't stop. I met a pianist called Chris Goody and we'd get together and play things. He knew Margaret Busby who was in a publishing company called Alison and Busby. She also wrote lyrics for tunes like 'Naima'. I was inspired by her, though I didn't write words myself at that time, I didn't think I could."[4] Winstone first attracted attention when in the late 1960s she appeared at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club sharing the bill with Roland Kirk.[4] Interviewed in 2020, she said: "I went along to a gig at the Charlie Chester Club and I sat in with a drummer called John Stevens and he was incredibly enthusiastic and jumped up and said, 'I'm going to tell Ronnie Scott about you, he should give you an audition!' ... Eventually, I went to the club, and after reminding Ronnie that eight months before he promised to invite me for an audition, we got it and he gave me four weeks there opposite Roland Kirk. I think I was on cloud nine...." This led to her first radio BBC broadcast, which by chance was heard by singer Carmen McRae on a visit from the US, who met Winstone and was interviewed for a jazz magazine with her.[4]

Winstone joined Michael Garrick's band in 1968. Her first recording came the following year, with Joe Harriott and Amancio D'Silva, on Hum-Dono (reissued in 2015).[5] In 1971 she was voted top singer in the Melody Maker Jazz Poll. She recorded the album Edge of Time under her own name in 1972.[6] Winstone contributed vocals to Ian Carr's Nucleus on that band's 1973 release Labyrinth, a jazz-rock concept album based on the Greek myth about the Minotaur.

Winstone has worked with many major European musicians and visiting Americans, as well as with most of her peers in British jazz, including Garrick, John Surman, Michael Gibbs, Mike Westbrook and her former husband, the pianist John Taylor. With Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler she performed and recorded three albums for ECM as a member of the trio Azimuth between 1977 and 1980; their fifth and last album How It Was Then… Never Again (1995) was given four stars by DownBeat magazine.

Her own 1987 album Somewhere Called Home, also released on the ECM label, has often been called "a classic".[7][8][9] The review by AllMusic said: "It's not only a watermark of Winstone's career but, in the long line of modern vocal outings released since the romantic vocal tradition of Fitzgerald and Vaughan ended with free jazz and fusion, the disc stands out as one most original yet idyllic of vocal jazz recordings. ... A must for fans looking for something as cozy as a golden age chanteuse, but without all the gymnastic scatting and carbon copy ways of many a contemporary jazz singer."[10] In addition, she made albums with the American pianists Jimmy RowlesWell Kept Secret, recorded in 1993 – and Fred Hersch. On Well Kept Secret Winstone sang lyrics she had written to Rowles' composition "The Peacocks", which she had heard on the Bill Evans album You Must Believe in Spring (1981).[11] With the title "A Timeless Place", Winstone's lyrics were subsequently recorded by others, including Mark Murphy.[12] Well respected as a lyricist, she has also written words to tunes by Ralph Towner, Egberto Gismonti, Ivan Lins, Steve Swallow, and other musicians.[13][14][15][16]

In 2001, Winstone was honoured as "Best Vocalist" in the BBC Jazz Awards, also being nominated in 2007 and 2008.[17][18]

In February 2018, Winstone released Descansado: Songs for Films, a collection that AllMusic described as "an unusual and provocative album".[19]

Personal life[edit]

In 1972, Winstone married pianist John Taylor,[20] whom she had met in 1966; they divorced after some years, although they later continued their musical partnership.[15] Their two sons, Alex and Leo, are both musicians.[20]

Awards and honours[edit]


As leader[edit]

  • Edge of Time (Argo, 1972)
  • Live at Roncella Jonica, with Kenny Wheeler (Izemz/Polis, 1985)
  • Somewhere Called Home (ECM, 1987)
  • M.A.P., with John Wolfe Brennan (L+R, 1990)
  • Far to Go (Grappa, 1993)
  • Well Kept Secret (Hot House, 1995)
  • Siren's Song, with Kenny Wheeler (Justin Time, 1997)
  • Manhattan in the Rain (Sunnyside, 1998)
  • Like Song, Like Weather, with John Taylor (Koch, 1999)
  • Songs & Lullabies, with Fred Hersch (Sunnyside, 2003)
  • Chamber Music (EmArcy, 2003)
  • It's Later Than You Think with the NDR Big Band (Provocateur, 2006)
  • Children of Time, with Michael Garrick (Jazz Academy, 2006)
  • Amoroso... ..Only More So, with Stan Tracey (Trio, 2007)
  • Distances (ECM, 2008)
  • Yet Another Spring, with Michael Garrick (Jazz Academy, 2009)
  • Stories Yet to Tell (ECM, 2010)
  • Mirrors with Kenny Wheeler (Edition, 2013)
  • Dance Without Answer (ECM, 2014)
  • Descansado: Songs for Films (ECM, 2018)

With Azimuth

As guest[edit]

With Joe Harriott and Amancio D'Silva

  • Hum-Dono (Columbia UK, 1969)

With Nucleus

With Eberhard Weber

With Kenny Wheeler


  1. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 2714/5. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ a b Odeen-Isbister, Sara, "Jazz star Norma Winstone on growing up in Dagenham", Barking and Dagenham Post, 5 October 2012.
  3. ^ Plowright, Piers. Peter Cork obituary in The Independent, 30 October, 2012
  4. ^ a b c d Vera, Paola (15 July 2020). "Norma Winstone, a true British legend". Jazz in Europe. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  5. ^ Heining, Duncan (26 January 2015). "Joe Harriott-Amancio D'Silva Quartet: Hum Dono". AllAboutJazz. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  6. ^ Lock, Graham (1994). Chasing the Vibration. Devon: Stride Publications. pp. 77–81. ISBN 1-873012-81-0.
  7. ^ Anglesey, Melanie (27 May 2009). "Norma Winstone headlines jazz concert in Chipperfield".
  8. ^ "Norma Winstone - EFG London Jazz Festival". Mezzo. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  9. ^ "Norma Winstone at Dean Clough, September 15th". Northern Jazz News. 3 August 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  10. ^ "AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook".
  11. ^ Loudon, Christopher (26 April 2019). "Overdue Ovation: Vocalist Norma Winstone". JazzTimes. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  12. ^ a b Beckerman, Lou (1 March 2016). "Norma Winstone interview". Sussex Jazz Magazine. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Norma Winstone". ECM Records. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Norma Winstone: Britain's Poetic Jazz Singer". Weekend Edition Sunday. NPR. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Norma Winstone – Dancing To Her Own Tune". Jazz Views. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Great voice who found the words". The Glasgow Herald. 6 July 2001.
  17. ^ "And all that jazz". Kent Life. 5 March 2009.. Updated 20 February 2013.
  18. ^ "Norma's nominated for jazz awards". East London & West Essex Guardian. 7 August 2008.
  19. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Descansado: Songs for Films - Norma Winstone - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  20. ^ a b Fordham, John (19 July 2015). "John Taylor obituary". The Guardian.
  21. ^ "Biography". Norma Winstone. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  22. ^ "BBC report on Queen's Birthday Honours" (PDF). BBC News. Retrieved 23 June 2007.
  23. ^ "Honours". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  24. ^ Chilton, Martin, "Norma Winstone is jazz vocalist of the year", The Telegraph, 11 March 2015.
  25. ^ "2015 Gold Badge Award Recipients Revealed", M Magazine, 16 September 2015.

External links[edit]