2. So in Love
3. Soldier's Things
5. I Think it's Going to Rain Today
6. Jitterbug Waltz
7. A Thousand Years
10. Here Comes the Honeyman
11. Some Shadows
12. You Go to My Head
This collaboration between the German NDR Radio Big Band based in Hamburg and British arranger Mike Gibbs, together with vocalist Norma Winstone, was recorded in 2011. It follows on from previous collaborations between Mike Gibbs and the NDR Big Band.
Some of the music is familiar, some less so, but it makes for an interesting mixture. I have not been a big fan of Norma Winstone in the past, I categorised her as weird! This album has made me change my mind. Whether that's down to Mike Gibbs' arrangements or my previous misjudgement, I'm not sure! I am sure, however, that I enjoyed her performance on this album.
Blue is a Joni Mitchell song, Norma sings with an almost symphonic background from the orchestra and a nice piano solo. So In Love, that great Cole Porter tune, gets a swinging treatment and is one of my favourite tracks from the album. Norma gives a fine performance with good diction, intonation and phrasing. The orchestra plays the chart well and Mark Mondesir at the drums makes it all swing.
Soldier's Things was new to me, but it is well delivered and tells an interesting tale. Again Norma gets inside the song and makes it into something exceptional. Riverman is another song with a story, this time there is a tenor feature for Lutz Buchner to bring contrast to the performance. I Think it's Going to Rain Today starts with a brass-band-type backing, which continues throughout: not my favourite track.
Jitterbug Waltz is an old Fats Waller tune and this is a really fine track, bringing out the best from both vocalist and orchestra. Norma copes very well; this is not an easy song to perform. A Thousand Years is a song composed by Sting and Mark Eldridge: it has a Latin feel about it in this Mike Gibbs arrangement.
The next two tracks are from the Ellington stable. Caravan and Daydream are both typical Ellingtonian offerings. To my mind Caravan is over-busy, but that is only my opinion; too many sounds of the desert and not enough good old swing! Daydream gets a much more sympathetic treatment with gorgeous warm saxophones complementing Norma's voice and a very attractive (and swinging) ensemble passage from the orchestra.
Here Comes the Honeyman is a George & Ira Gershwin tune which must have come from a show, but I don't know which one. Norma is at her best in this fine arrangement. Some Shadows, which was composed by Mike Gibbs, includes Kenny Wheeler's transcribed solo from the album Michael Gibbs, but played here by two trumpets, two flugels and a soprano saxophone. The last track, You Go to My Head, is a soprano solo from Christof Lauer.
There is a great deal to be enjoyed in this album. Mike Gibbs is hugely talented, but like a lot of hugely talented people he sometimes writes music which seems to me over-complicated. That said, this is an excellent album and I recommend it.