Digging through the catalogue of Norma Jean Bell – a defining voice of Detroit Soul
As singers and musicians go, Norma Jean Bell is yet another talent to emerge from Detroit’s musical underground with a tantalising background and catalogue of work that has always been nothing short of exceptional.
A saxophonist, singer and producer in her own right, she rose to attention during the rise of the house and dance music scene in the 90s – founding her own label Pandamonium. Her involvement in music stretches back to the mid 70s when she started out playing sax in rocker Tommy Bolin’s band. After the guitarist died, her talents hadn’t gone unnoticed and she went on to play in a variety of bands including Frank Zappa, Chic, P-Funk and for Narada Michael Walden.
After initial collaborations with the rising star of Kenny Dixon Jnr aka Moodymann at the start of the 90s, she made her own label the primary outlet for releasing material. She went on to gain major attention as the voice of Detroit Soul after her anthem “I’m the Baddest Bitch” landed in 1997. “Bitch” features her powerful vocal range in addition to horn-playing, the succulent jazz-disco tinged groove becoming an international hit. Continuing her work with fellow Motor City resident Moodymann, they put themselves at the forefront of the evolving soulful electronic music scene – signing the “Come Into My Room” album project to Peacefrog in 2001.
Although Norma Jean has been inactive on the House music front for some years now, her legacy has definitely stood the test of time – yet another reason for presenting a selection of her work… essential listening: