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Norma Winstone’s Somewhere Like Home: Must-Have Album #4

by John Cobley

Wednesday Feb 28th, 2024




Norma  Winstone’s Somewhere Called Home is not for those who think that “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” All eleven tracks are slow, sometimes almost rhythmless. Rubato is probably the best word here. 


This 1987 ECM album features three English jazz musicians at the peak of their careers and at the top of their form. Vocalist Norma Winstone, the leader, had been performing for 20 years in the UK with such musicians as Joe Harriott, Mike Westbrook, Ian Carr, Michael Gibbs and Kenny Wheeler. For this album she chose a wide variety of ballads: two standards (“Tea For Two” and “Out of this World”), three compositions by contemporary British jazz musicians, two by South Americans, one by an American, one from a 1953 movie (Lili) and one by Bill Evans. All nine tracks have been carefully planned but still leave plenty of room for improvisation. Winstone herself wrote lyrics for four of the compositions.


The contributions by John Taylor and Tony Coe are crucial to the success of this album. Taylor, who had played with Winstone for many years—they were married—plays brilliantly as a soloist. But for this album he is most important as an accompanist. He sets the tone of most of the pieces and keeps the music, which is all slow rubato, from dragging. (I found that some of the slow numbers on one of Winstone’s other albums--without Taylor--did drag) Coe, with his rosewood clarinet (what a sound he gets!) and tenor, is just as crucial. His sometimes harsh tone is an effective foil for Winstone’s mellow voice. And he never loses sight of his supporting role to Winstone.


This album, of course, has many similarities with the five Azimuth trio albums, where both Winstone and Taylor appear. One difference here is Tony Coe replacing Kenny Wheeler. Another difference is that the Azimuth compositions were mainly Taylor’s. The main reason for my preferring this album over the fine Azimuth albums is the contribution of Coe. I have nothing but admiration for Wheeler’s playing, but he is too close to the style of Winstone. What makes Somewhere so successful is the contrast Coe brings to Winstone’s singing. Nevertheless, despite this contrast, he is always totally engaged with Winstone musically. There are magic, delicate moments when the two find slightly discordant notes together. Magic indeed.




Track Highlights 

Winstone excels throughout. I’ve focused more on her interaction with Coe and Taylor. One aspect that is prominent throughout is the interaction between the three musicians.


Café  Taylor setting the dreamy, nostalgic mood with sustained notes. Winstone’s wordless singing with Coe’s clarinet—the harmonies. The sound of Coe’s clarinet. Taylor’s support for Coe’s solo. 


Somewhere Called Home  Intro by Coe and Taylor in unison. Winstone’s intonation. Superb solo by Taylor that fits perfectly. 


Sea Lady   Taylor’s “undulating” rhythm that gives the feeling of floating on water. Winstone’s handling of Kenny Wheeler’s melody.        


Sometime Ago   Two fine solos: Coe’s clarinet and Taylor’s’ piano. Winstone’s range. Interaction again between Coe’s clarinet and Winstone. Taylor’s contribution throughout.


Prologue   Rhythm like Evans’ “Peace Piece.” Taylor’s control of the music.


Celeste   Moments of silence. All three contributing simultaneously, leading to the climax with Winstone hitting the high note perfectly. 


Hi Lili Hi Lo   Incredible intro by Coe on clarinet. Winstone’s expressiveness. Creative adaptation of Bronislaw Kaper’s composition from the 1953 movie Lili. Coe and Taylor’s playing to counteract the extremely mellow song.


Out of This World   Taylor’s creation of the eerie mood. Ensemble interaction. Winstone’s wordless improvisation.


Tea for Two   Daring interpretation of this jazz standard at the slowest tempo ever. Winstone’s perfect control at this difficult tempo. Coe’s long tenor solo.



Extract from a 2023 Interview


What runs through your mind if we would play one of the most incredible records from your vast discography, ‘Somewhere Called Home’ (1986)?


Norma Winstone:  Nostalgia for those creative times and those wonderful musical colleagues.

1 Comment

Shaukat Husain Saturday 9th March 2024

A very fine article on a wonderful recording.

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