Winstone has a lissome voice, agile and expressive, and she's a fine improviser, besides. That's not to say she's a vocal athlete, however; although she's known for her wordless improvisations, Winstone is a fine interpreter of lyrics and composed melody—a plain- speaking, rhythmically direct singer who gets to the heart of the matter quickly and effectively.
Winstone played piano and organ in her youth. She began singing semi-professionally by the age of 17, influenced by conventional jazz vocalists. During the '60s she became attracted to the jazz avant garde. She played in groups led by pianists Michael Garrick and Mike Westbrook; she also sang with such forward-thinking musicians as saxophonist John Surman, flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler, composer Michael Gibbs, and pianist John Taylor (whom she married in 1972). A late '60s gig at Ronnie Scott's club in London (also on the bill was the legendary tenor saxophonist Roland Kirk) garnered critical notice. In 1971 she was named best jazz singer in a poll by the British publication Melody Maker. That year she recorded her first album as leader, Edge of Time, for the Decca label. With Wheeler and Taylor, Winstone formed Azimuth, a critically-acclaimed contemporary chamber jazz group that recorded several times for the ECM label from the mid '70s. Winstone is also an accomplished lyricist, having written words to music composed by guitarists Egberto Gismonti and Ralph Towner, bassist Steve Swallow, and vocalist Ivan Lins, among others.