Vocalist Norma Winstone is good at small musical families who converse with quiet uninhibitedness and last for years – like the trio Azimuth from 1977 into the 1990s, and in this ensemble with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German reeds player Klaus Gesing since 2002. As with the group's acclaimed earlier sessions for ECM, Dance Without Answer mingles Winstone lyrics to her partners' tunes with diverse and audaciously reimagined covers – of material from Tom Waits's ‘San Diego Serenade’ and Nick Drake's ‘Time of No Reply’ to the 1985 Madonna song ‘Live to Tell’. Not much hurries, flusters or intensifies Winstone's cool delivery, but her range, control and relaxation in open musical spaces remain awesome, and her pure tones are acquiring a more gravelly informality with the years. Gesing is magnificent, bending slow bass-clarinet sounds on the title track of unstated goodbyes, whooping and wheeling across Venier's adaptation of the Italian poem Gust da Essi Viva.
John Fordham, The Guardian
This is now the third album for ECM by this remarkable trio, and it is difficult to supress the urge to declare that it is also their best to date. On closer acquaintance and after revisiting ‘Distances’ from 2007 and ‘Stories Yet To Tell’ recorded in 2009 it is apparent all are on a par in terms of their excellence and consistency. Norma Winstone is perhaps singing better than at any time in her long and distinguished career, and there can be few on the world stage to seriously rival the sheer beauty and emotional depth of her voice. In Klaus Gesing the trio have a versatile reedsman with a sensual and moving, yet playful turn of phrase locked in the purity of his tone on soprano saxophone; and a bass clarinettist of genuine and unique originality. Pianist Glauco Venier brings to this a sense of formality and harmonic awareness that, rather than being the glue that holds the fabric of the material together, suggests new directions for both voice and horns. [...] All in all this is a superb album from start to finish.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views
Die delikaten Dialoge des Italieners Glauco Venier (Piano) und des Deutschen Klaus Gesing (Sax, Klarinette) münden in feingliedrigen Kammer-Jazz. Die so zarte wie nachdrückliche Stimmpräsenz der Britin Norma Winstone wiederum ist für sich schon atemberaubend.
Matthias Inhoffen, Stereoplay
An unusually like-minded cooperative of coolly lyrical performers, their tranquil brand of ballad-tempo music has established a solid market across the Channel. This is their third album for the German ECM label and the most assured yet, a serene selection of unfamiliar melodies, pure-toned clarinet solos, warm acoustic pianistics and silky vocals delivered in English and Friulian, a regional Italian dialect. A long way from the Great American Songbook.
Jack Massarik, The Evening Standard
Norma Winstone is expert at exploring the deeper meaning of a lyric and this set features spare, spiritual readings of tunes from Nick Drake, Tom Waits and Fred Neil, plus a radiant version of Madonna’s ‘Live to Tell’. On their third album together, Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German reedsman Klaus Gesing supply elegantly haunting accompaniment.
John Bungey, The Times