In 1973, Norma Jean Bell was the saxophonist in Stevie Wonder’s touring band when Wonder was involved in a near-fatal car accident. With all Wonder’s touring dates canceled, 22-year old Norma Jean suddenly had a lot of time on her hands.

Bell returned to Detroit and joined the Lyman Woodard Trio, necessitating the group’s name change to the Lyman Woodard Organization. Read the article from the Detroit Free Press. Since the majority of Saturday Night Special had already been tracked, Bell’s contribution to the album was during the LP’s “sweetening session” in January 1975. It was then that the saxophonist’s alluring runs were added to the sublime “Joy Road.” Bell would go on to serve short, memorable tenures with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa later that same year.

Starting in the 1980s, Norma Jean Bell transformed herself into a major presence in the Detroit house music scene. Bell’s productions are defined by their seductive thump, tasty saxophone playing and fearless vocal delivery. Productive alliances with house and techno heavyweights Moodymann, Theo Parrish, and Carl Craig have kept Bell prominent on today’s dance scene.

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