A critic once wrote that Norma Winstone “sets herself impossibly high standards, and then surpasses them.”

She’s a writer of lyrics, some of which the vocalist has lent to the music of Ralph Towner, Steve Swallow and Fred Hersch, among others. It’s a key element of the crucial knack for understanding the full impact and value of the word in song. The layers of meaning of turns of phrase and how words ride and lead, or are led by melody to convey a message, communicate a sentiment, or tap an emotion, are sweet tools in the musical toolkit of the essence of the Winstone artistry.

At what could be seen as the other end of the spectrum of vocal music, Winstone has also explored wordless vocal improvisation, touching on experimental uses of the voice in music beyond lyrics. For the vocalist, there may be some courageous audacity, leaving aside some relative structure and foundation that accompanies lyrics as part of storytelling and demands a reliance upon emotion, emoting, and a differently focused presentation of nuance.

Her sound has an international stamp and with a unique charm, it easily straddles the jazz and improvisational stylings of her native U.K. artists and those of the U.S. Norma Winstone is where the voice as instrument is the instrument as voice.