Appearances can be deceiving - at first glance, Norma does not look like your average house producer. Owner and main driving force behind Detroit label Pandemonium, she started making jazz-flecked house in 1994. Once member of Frank Zappa’s touring band, her extraordinary voice and beautiful sax playing give her records a very distinctive and immediately recognisable vibe, even when compared to her partner-in-crime Moodymann’s productions.
Norma Jean Bell - Love’s Got Its Hooks In Me
Norma Jean Bell - Yes I Am (I’m Gonna Get You)
The first track is a B-Side to a Pandemonium 12” from 1998 and is probably my favourite of all her songs - great sax riff, powerful vocal and driving bassline. Norma’s biggest talent lies in the range of expression she gets out of her voice and instrument without losing sight of the percussive elements that are so important in house music. The second cut is off her 2001 album, Come Into My Room, a great album from start to finish: I chose this track in part because of the clever Gill Scott-Heron sample. If listened to carefully, Come Into My Room is filled with interpolations from a wide variety of sources, from Coltrane and Zappa to Scott-Heron, just to name a few. In doing so, she has created an album that has a sound longed for by many and achieved by very few: a strange, alluring, hypnotic brew of past and future, never boring or obvious, stunningly on point on every beat.