Kenny Wheeler • Norma Winstone
Kenny Wheeler’s lustrous, innovative, song suite was first heard at the Berlin jazz festival in 1998 as a piece for five solo voices. Revisiting the work with a full choir directed by Pete Churchill and putting Wheeler’s long-time collaborator singer Norma Winstone in the soloist’s chair was an inspired idea. Winstone has such a deft and articulate touch with text, often her own. Here she combines with 25 effervescing voices and a killer core jazz quintet to illuminate the poetry of Stevie Smith, Lewis Carroll and WB Yeats, reimagined in Wheeler’s eloquent settings. Misty then muscular choral passages, criss-crossed by Winstone’s cut glass lyric reading are embraced by instrumental accompaniment that balances the written sections of music with expressive improvisation. Finally, the atmosphere of reserved romanticism is distilled in just a few lines from the golden horn of 83-year-old Wheeler himself. Sublime.