Norma Winstone, one of the greatest jazz singers, celebrates her 80th birthday today, 23 September 2021. We invited friends, colleagues and fans to wish her a very happy birthday.
Christine Allen: Norma has that rare ability as a singer to make you feel that she is singing just for you. Her trio with Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing is outstanding – one of my favourite bands of all time. Its intimacy and immaculate musicality have often moved me to tears. I feel very honoured to have been able to get to know her and work with her over the past few years. Long may her success continue.
Brigitte Beraha: Dear Norma, Wishing you an amazing birthday! What a life-changing experience to discover you and your voice through Kenny’s music all those years ago. You are a true inspiration, always. Lots of love and see you soon, Brigitte x
Brian Blain: Happy Birthday Norma and thank you for half a lifetime of beautiful music. Many many years since I climbed the stairs of the Little Theatre Club in St. Martin’s Lane and heard you for the very first time. A revelation. And still every young singer would like to sound like you.
Margaret Busby: Hard to believe a half-century has passed since I first had the pleasure of hearing Norma sing, having met her through our mutual friend Chris Goodey (who depped on piano for my then husband Lionel Grigson). I was into lyric-writing and who better than Norma to validate my efforts by singing the words to such favourites as John Coltrane’s Naima, or Some Time Ago, which she did me the honour of including on her classic album Somewhere Called Home. Of course, she later had no need of anyone’s help with lyrics: her A Timeless Place – a Jimmy Rowles composition that appeared as The Peacocks on Bill Evans’s 1981 You Must Believe in Spring – remains perennially evocative. Many congratulations on this landmark birthday, dear Norma – and my pen is ready if ever you need my services again. Much love from Margaret.
Filomena Campus: I remember flying from my Sardinia to Sicily to attend Norma’s workshop in Palermo in 1999. My first steps into the world of professional jazz. Your voice, your music, your approach to vocal improvisation, your sophisticated presence on stage have been a precious guide since then. In Sardinia, to say happy birthday, we say “A kent’ annos!”: see you at 100, Norma! Lots of love. Filomena Campus
Pete Churchill: Dear Norma… You have been such an abiding presence in my life for so long… and you continue to influence the way I think about words and music every single day of my life. So many, if not most of my significant musical memories seem to have involved you in some way and whenever I have a problem to solve, either in teaching or in my own music making, I find myself asking ‘What would Norma do?’ Thank you for being such a good friend, for your wisdom and for being an irreplaceable part of our family. We are all looking forward to celebrating with you very soon. Much love to you both…. Pete.
Kit Downes: Happy birthday Norma! You’re the best – can’t wait to jump off musical cliffs again together in the near future!
Alex Dutilh: Dear Norma, Without you as a vibrant pioneer, the landscape of European art voice in jazz would have been totally different. And hundreds of great singers couldn’t feel the freedom they have today for words, melody or not, rhythms or not, harmony or not, imagining other kind of conversations with instruments… Thanks so much for this 80 years of opening doors, windows and imagination. Love from Paris, Alex Dutilh.
Dominique Eade: Dear Norma, You have inspired not only me, but every one of my peers, and so many of the students I teach. What a generous gift your music, lyrics, improvising and spirit have given us! From the bottom of my heart, I wish you the best on this day, and a great year to come. Endless gratitude, Dominique Eade.
Tina Edwards: Norma – you are a force of nature! Make lots of happy memories on your special day.
Manfred Eicher: As singer and as lyricist Norma Winstone has a poet’s sense for the unexpected detail. She hears things differently, and tells us about them in her own quiet way, whether finding the subject of Kenny Wheeler’s Sea Lady in its undulating countermelody or discovering new shades of melancholy in a cheerful standard like Tea for Two. Thank you Norma for the Azimuth trio, and the convincing case it made for the voice-as-instrument in inspiring company. Thanks, too, for Distances, Somewhere Called Home and more, bringing new meanings to the tradition of the jazz song and expanding its range. We wish you many more creative years!
John Etheridge: I’ve worked with Norma from time to time (but all too infrequently) over many years. She is the most charming and modest person. Very down to earth, which belies her immense talents and abilities. Her musicality is obviously unimpeachable, but also the quiet and authoritative way she has held her own in tricky environments, never losing her humour and poise. She is a one off and truly a National Treasure. Very many happy returns Dame Norma!
John Fordham: When I first heard Norma Winstone live – around 1970 or ’71, with a Mike Westbrook band on music from Westbrook’s Love Songs album – I witnessed something I’ve marvelled at almost every time I’ve heard her since. Norma could make the slippery detours of jazz improvisation and interpretation sound as natural as child’s play, an intuitive art enabled by a flawless ear, and a sophisticated technique that she never flamboyantly parades. As an eloquent singer/songwriter herself, she also perfectly understands how to balance improv’s deconstructionist urges with the cherishing of a classic tune or a revealing lyric. On her 75th birthday gig in the EFG London Jazz Festival in 2016, she credited as her biggest influences all the musicians she had shared road-life with down the years. It was a glimpse of the generous perceptiveness that has made a unique artist an instinctive team-player too, and one of European jazz’s best-loved originals. Very happy birthday and thanks for all the music, Norma.
Klaus Gesing: Dear Norma, All the very best from Trieste, Italy for your birthday. What a treat, to have had the chance to play together for 20 years, and turn tunes into songs! It took me a long time to realise how good you really are, but in the end – I think – I did get there. When I heard you recently in a concert in Cologne, I thought how good it would be to be in as good shape as you are when I get to my own 80th birthday. You set the bar very high – and I am grateful to have had the chance to share so many musical moments… the singing will never be done.
Michael Gibbs: NOR—MA!
“Lots of Laughs,
Lots of Laughs”
When we recorded Joni’s BLUE –
as you sang those words –
I nearly lost it – so deeply heart wrenching –
But then, I remember – after many gigs –
we’d all go for a hang,
Stories, reminiscing’s, remember when´s –
and Lots of laughs, Lots of laughs,
After all these years –
– Welcome to the mighty 80 –
C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S .
–and after covid, how about another
Lots Of Love.
Frank Griffith: Happy Birthday Norma! I have so much enjoyed your singing and recordings over the years. Particularly with Kenny Wheeler’s large ensembles. The unique sound of your vocalese lines in unison with John Paricelli’s guitar and Kenny’s flugelhorn were a wonder to behold. For Jan is the perfect marriage of sublime resonance and striking fortitude. Please let it continue for many years to come.
Dave Green: When I first heard you at Ronnie’s in 1966 I thought you were special. Then when we worked together with Mike Garrick’s Sextet I knew you were. Happy Birthday Norm’. To me you’ll always be Troppo. Lots of love, Dave xxx
Pablo Held: Happy Birthday Norma! Thank you for all the inspiration & beautiful music you’re giving us all. Getting to play with you and learn from you is a dream come true and an incredible honor. You’re my heroine! Much love, Pablo
Fred Hersch: Dearest Norma, Congratulations on this wonderful occasion! You have had a profound impact on the art of jazz singing with your unerring pitch, superb diction and ability to take musical risks. Your sound is immediately recognizable and truly unique. I treasure our collaborations and am ever grateful for the extraordinary lyrics you have seamlessly written to my songs. Stay well and keep doing what you do so elegantly. Much love to you, Fred
Dave Holland: We first met in the mid 1960’s at a pub called the Lilliput in the East End of London where I was playing. You sat in and sang a few songs with us and right away it was clear what an amazing and unique musician you are. We’ve shared so many wonderful musical experiences since then but most all I treasure the friendship we have. I’m sending much love to you on your birthday and I’ll be looking forward to seeing you again soon.
Duncan Hopkins: Happiest of birthdays to Norma, from us here in the colonies. You continue to be an inspiration to us for creativity, beauty and light and I look forward to when our paths cross again. Love and best wishes, Duncan and Fiona Hopkins
Pete Hurt: Happy birthday Norma, you’ve been an inspiration to many musicians over the years and I hope you carry on being so. May your diary be full and you keep well. Pete
Nikki Iles: Dear Norma… I have known you since I was seventeen years old. Meeting you at Wavendon – along with Bob and Tony – meant that nothing would ever be the same again. You have been and continue to be a beacon in my life. The humanity and the honesty in your music continues to inspire me – not to mention the fearlessness of your improvising. It has been so wonderful to make music with you all these years and to know you as such a good friend. Have a wonderful weekend with the family and we will see you the following weekend to continue the celebrations. Love Nikki.
Chris Laurence: I have known Norma for more than 50 years! What an amazing unique talent! We have worked on many projects together, all of which I am very proud, in particular Manhattan in the Rain and Sarah Vaughan The Poetry of John Paul the 2nd, when Norma had to coach Sarah, after the songs got lost in the post enroute to the U.S.! Regards, Chris
Mark Lockheart: Like so many jazz musicians from my generation I grew up listening to Norma Winstone with Azimuth, Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor among others, so it was a dream come true when Nikki Iles asked me to be in her band “The Printmakers” alongside Norma.
Playing music with Norma over the last 15 years or so in various combinations, has been an amazing experience; whether it’s trying to play subtly behind her lyrics or exploring free improv duetting, she’s always totally committed to the music.
Norma is a consummate performer, a fearless improviser, an incredibly youthful spirit full of wonderful stories, a great friend with Hugh to me and my wife, and along with Nikki and I, an avid Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts fan!
Henry Lowther: Happy Birthday, my many years longstanding friend, Norma. We’ve been closely acquainted now for over 50 years including, of course, the many happy and amusing years we spent together playing and travelling together in the iconic Michael Garrick Sextet. Along with Art, Dave and Trevor, we will always remember the amazing intervals we enjoyed in that band.
Many years ago I used to travel once a year to a festival in Portugal in order to play in an international big band and each year the organisers would invite a different composer to direct and provide the music. One year they invited Kenny Wheeler and in order to agree to this Kenny insisted on bringing Norma with him. I can remember very clearly how deeply moved I was at that time upon hearing Norma singing in unison with Kenny again, because I realised then more than ever that together they have contributed a unique and original sound that has been so important and iconic to British jazz. And that sound has also been important to my own personal musical experience.
And Norma, I have to say that it’s been a huge privilege to have had you in my life both as a friend and as a wonderful, original, unique and accomplished musician and singer. I do hope to see you again soon, perhaps at another reunion, but in the meantime have a wonderful birthday with a lovely day on the day!
Lots of love, Henry X
James Maddren: Happy Birthday Norma. I don’t believe them, you’re not 80. You are the most wonderfully youthful person I know. I look forward to lots more music making and stories soon. Loads of love. James Maddren
John Marshall: One of the great pleasures over the years has been the opportunity to work with the most talented people. I’ve been lucky enough to play with the best (both as musicians and people) from practically everywhere, and among those it’s been my privilege to work with Norma. Always such a great experience – not only in terms of her brilliant talent but also her quiet intelligence and sense of humour – an unbeatable combination.
Thanks Norma – have a good one.
Maxi of course sends her love. John
Georgia Mancio: I first heard Norma at the very tentative start of my musical journey. Her sounds and words, her fragility and strength, and the purity of her individuality inspired this misfit to believe that maybe she could fit too. Thank you and Happy 80th.
Claire Martin: Happy Birthday Norma. You have touched all our hearts and treated us to so much musical magic. Thank you and have a blast! Claire Martin xxxx
Tina May: Happy
I have so many memories of moving, wonderful performances. You are a beacon of light.
I look forward to celebrating… Soon !
Yours in admiration!
Anthony Michelli: Whether it be on-stage, on record or in the pub, my professional and personal interactions with Norma in both the UK and here in Toronto, Canada, alongside such luminaries as Nikki and Kenny, have been nothing less than joyful, creative and enlightening! Norma always shines her inner creative soul through her stunning voice, lyric and via her humble charm. I am honored and compelled to share my deepest appreciation for Norma Winstone, a great artist and human being. Our sincerest happy birthday wishes to you Norma on this momentous occasion. We wish you much love and many more years of creativity. Anthony Michelli and family, Toronto, Canada.
Bert Noglik: Sie ist die große Lyrikerin des Jazzgesangs, die mit sparsamen Worten und schwebenden Vokalisen verzaubert. Die Intimität ihres Ausdrucks, ihre Noblesse und ihre Nuancierungsvermögen suchen ihresgleichen. “Azimuth”, wie weit liegt das schon zurück! Und wie visionär leuchten diese Klänge immer noch! Und heute: Mit den Jahren ist ihre Kunst noch inniger geworden, gelingt ihr die Neuerfindung von Songs aus dem Geist der Melancholie mit poetischem Feinsinn einer geradezu atemberaubenden Intensität.
(She is the great lyricist of jazz singing, who enchants with her verbal economy and with a voice which can soar. The intimacy of her expression, her elegance and her capacity for nuance are unparalleled. “Azimuth”, how long ago that was! And how visionary and luminous these sounds still are! And today: over the years her art has become even more intimate, she succeeds in reinventing songs from the very spirit of melancholy with the poetic subtlety of an almost breathtaking intensity.)
John Parricelli: Dear Norma. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday. I just wanted to say that playing with you and getting to know you over the years has been the most amazing experience for me. You’re a real inspiration, and I’ve loved every moment of our gigs. Have a lovely day and hope to see you very soon. Saudações!! John xx
Evan Parker: Two vivid memories: in the old Olympic studios listening back to the take of Kenny’s tune Nothing Changes with your lyrics – “…as we fill the corners of each space that’s given us to live as we will…” – and then perhaps thirty years later in Dublin, the last gig on Kenny’s big band tour, me playing second tenor like Kenny Reed, and being transported out of this world by you singing the melody at the front of Kenny’s epic arrangement of How Deep is the Ocean? Thank you for all your wonderful music.
Thierry Péala: Dearest Norma, “Thanks heaven forrr this blessed day
Evilena Protektore: Dear Norma! Greetings from the edge of Northern Europe – Riga, Latvia! I dare to speak on behalf of all Latvian jazz singers, but I think they will definitely support me in this message – we here greatly respect and admire you, you have been an endless source of inspiration to all of us – your music, lyrics… We wish you a hundred more years of music, love, happiness and health!
Lisa Rich: HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY NORMA! Many blessings my beautiful singing friend. THANK YOU for all the gorgeous music! Thanks for your friendship. BE SAFE, BE WELL AND BE HAPPY! With Great Respect and Much Love, xoxo 💖Big Virtual Hug! Lisa Rich, Washington DC.
Phil Robson: Dear Norma, happy birthday, I hope you have a fabulous day. Even though we didn’t see you as much as we should have, it was lovely having you and Hugh as nearby neighbours for all those years. X Phil Robson.
Cathy Segal-Garcia: My dear dear Norma! May you have the BEST birthday EVER! And truly, many, many more! I love you! Cathy Segal-Garcia
Maria Schneider: Happy birthday, Norma! The earth must have quivered in delight the day you were born, knowing it would pass through some of the darkest days imaginable, but be largely healed through the sheer magic of your artistry. With love, Maria Schneider
Nicky Schrire: Dearest Norma, Happiest 80th birthday! I hope your day overflows with cake, family and wishes from near and far. Selfishly, I mostly wish you many more years of singing and music-making. You may eat cake while singing, of course. Much love, Nicky
Gwilym Simcock: Happy Birthday Norma! Congratulations on reaching this special milestone, although I think everyone who sees you would agree that there has surely been a miscalculation somewhere down the line! Numbers matter not of course, what’s important is that you have a wonderful day, and carry on making beautiful music for us all to enjoy and treasure. It has been an immense honour to share a stage with you, and I look forward very much to the next time. Lots of love to you both! X Gwil
Nick Smart: HAPPY BIRTHDAY NORMA!! I can’t thank you enough for everything you have given to the music over the years, and the joy, happiness, poignancy, laughter and inspiration you have shared. We all feel privileged and lucky to know you and have you in our lives – and long may it continue! Many happy returns and hope we have a suitable celebration soon! XX
Tessa Souter: Happy Birthday, Norma! You are absolutely one of my favorite ever singers, and a major inspiration since I was blown away hearing your lyrics to ‘The Peacocks’ – in the studio with Mark Murphy, who recorded the song (in one take) on Some Time Ago. It is also literally the first song I ever recorded. Your lyrics are enough reason for reverence but your singing, too, is so wonderfully distinctive that you make every song yours. When I first heard your beautiful version of ‘Manhattan in the Rain’ I assumed you had written the lyrics until you told me otherwise – and generously sent me your chart. Thank you for your kindness, your soul, your eloquence and your elegance! Long may you reign!
Stan Sulzmann: Keep breathing the wonderful sea air Norma and have a wonderful landmark birthday. Love Stan and Sarah.
John Surman: This is impossible Norma – no “Ladies in Mercedes” ever own up to being more than 55! Have a great birthday, Karin and I send all our love and best wishes.
Steve Swallow: Dear Norma, No big deal. Eighty schmeighty. If you would, please just carry on singing like an angel – it’s what you were bred to do. Love, Steve Swallow
Art Themen: Welcome to the octogenarians’ club Norma. Much love, Art Themen.
Christine Tobin: Dear Norma, wishing you much love on your very special birthday. You have always been an inspiration and even now you continue to plough new musical depths and find higher gears of expression. Your creative gifts are a thing of wonder. I am fortunate to have heard your live concerts over many years, honoured to have worked alongside you and grateful to you for your friendship. Long may you continue. <3
Colin Towns: I first heard Norma when I was a teenager who went to hear her at the Regency basement club in Tottenham when she was early twenties. The ‘word’ was out. Apparently, a few days later she asked where the bar staff were and was told that they were now guests of her majesty. The club was owned by the Kray’s. What a journey from there to international recognition and respect from musicians around the world. Singing with her amazing voice and using it as an instrument in the band with some of the greatest musicians of our time. Wow. Instantly recognisable, instantly memorable. No airs or graces but graceful and adventurous.
It has been a great honour to have recorded and toured with Norma. Once, touring the u.k. with the NDR big band from Hamburg, we were travelling to London from Edinburgh by train for a concert at the Cadogan Hall. The train suddenly came to a halt – big delay – we would never make the gig in time. “Excuse me” said Norma to the guard. Norma’s grace and charm did the trick. Suddenly we made for the next station – a new train was laid on – different line – magic, made the gig. Norma’s charm.
You have performed with so many incredible musicians and produced a huge number of ‘classic’ albums. So I speak for all you fans – Thank you. And – you are the only person I know who will serve a cup of tea with a song. It’s a huge honour to know you.
So birthday girl – please take a bow.
Glauco Venier: Dear Norma, My greatest fortune is to have shared part of your long and shining artistic history. For me a great honour, privilege and pride. You inspired me with your essence and you continue to do so. Thank you for being my Teacher of life and style. I wish you all the best from my heart. Happy Birthday Normina, Bronco and the family
Mike Walker: 35 years ago we very nearly freed the caged birds.
Years later, on a drive, late at night, en route to a hotel after a gig, we laughed about our chosen superpowers.
Yours, as I recall, was teleportation.
Mine was for you and I to instantly swap hairstyles during a ballad on a gig.
This stays with me.
Other things, like your natural ability to wear the meaning of a song like it’s a skin you’ve always lived in,
and the fearless, elegant risks you take in improvising, and our shared love of Tommy Cooper, Irene Handl, The Goons, Not Only But Also, and many others, stay with me also.
Treasuring our friendship
and loving you madly,
Happy Birthday, Norma, Mx
Anita Wardell: Nawm! Happy Birthday!
Thinking of you on your special day and this extra special Birthday!
Thank you for everything you give us with your amazing voice and music! You are an inspiration to so many – I think I have told you this – but many years ago 1982!!! as a fledgling jazz songbird, I remember one of my peers at jazz college in Oz giving me “Edge of Time” on a cassette – he said “you HAVE to listen to this Neet” Now!! So I did! I had never heard anything like it before – I absolutely loved that record and still do! Especially Enjoy this Day! So ……I hope you do “enjoy your day” on the 23rd September! Xx Hope it’s not too long before I see you again Nawm – I could do with another curry and Belly laugh with you! “praaad o’yer!”
Huw Warren: Happy Birthday Norma! Thanks for being Norma!Your singing and fearless improvising has been such an influence for us all (both to listen to and to play with 🙂 and I look forward to more….Much love, Huw
Oliver Weindling: To hear Norma regularly at the Vortex, and be able to chat to her, is such a privilege. I have been lucky enough to inherit some of the love and respect that David Mossman, as the club’s founder and latter-day Kentish near neighbour, had for this remarkable lady. Every gig has been an education as much as a joy.
Mike and Kate Westbrook: Norma
Welcome to the select band of Octogenarian Jazz Artistes.
Remembering some remarkable gigs.
Congratulations on your peerless singing and your distinguished career.
Happy Birthday, and keep on singing!
Love from Mike and Kate Westbrook.
Mark (Kenny’s son) and Tracy Wheeler: Thank you for your wonderful voice over the years, keep on keeping on please, Love Mark & Tracy Wheeler.
Kate Williams and Pete Whittaker: Dear Norma, Wishing you the happiest times for your 80th birthday. Thank you for all the beautiful music which you’ve made and continue to make – it’s such a massive contribution to the scene. Best wishes, Kate Williams and Pete Whittaker
Richard Williams: Dear Norma – Thank you for making music with elegance and integrity for so many years, and for helping to build an international reputation for the quality and originality of jazz made in Britain. Oh yes, and for being such a thoroughly lovely person. Many happy returns! Richard Williams
Alice Zawadzki: First lesson with Norma as a student at RAM. Her house on the Kent coast. Lovely, down-to-earth, miraculously luminous Norma. She’s my icon, we have never met. She asks me if I’m peckish. Norma Winstone is making me a cheese sandwich. NORMA WINSTONE IS MAKING ME A CHEESE SANDWICH. She gives me the best lesson ever. Fills me with confidence and joy. I skip out into the sea-air evening and get back on the train, never to be the same again. Her almost mercurial playfulness, total and no-nonsense devotion to music, and sparkling intelligence are an inspiration to us all and we are blessed to have her in our midst. Happy birthday Norma!!
We would like to thank all the contributors and also all those who have helped LJN to put these greetings together: Rob Adams, Christine Allen, Ann Braithwaite, Sue Edwards, Nikki Iles, Tina May, Ollie Weindling and above all Izzy Blankfield