Norma Winstone: Descansado (ECM 2567)


Norma Winstone

Norma Winstone voice
Glauco Veneier piano
Klaus Gesing soprano saxophone, bass clarinet
Helge Andreas Norbakken percussion
Mario Brunello violoncello
Recorded March 2017, ArteSuono Studio, Udine
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Vocalist Norma Winstone returns to ECM with pianist Glauco Venier and reedplayer Klaus Gesing to explore the relationship between song and cinema. Interpreting the scores of Legrand, Rota and Morricone, among others, and referencing such filmmakers as Godard, Fellini and Scorsese, the result is a collection of moving images in and of itself.

Winstone’s penchant for moody arrangements and organic insights into the human condition shares the silver screen’s existential concerns. Said concerns are made explicit as her trio, joined by percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken and cellist Mario Brunello, flip through the pages of the human heart. The power of memory to shape how we live and love is a central theme. Whether toeing the line between past and future in “Il Postino” or weaving through the corridors of yearning in “Amarcord (I Remember),” Winstone’s voice knows where it stands at any given moment. Thus, “What Is A Youth?” and the opening “His Eyes, Her Eyes” set the tone for a plaintive emotional experience, like a dark filter placed over the lens of the mind through which she captures parries of affection.

Winstone’s musicians soliloquize the finer implications of her sentiment. Norbakken and Brunello add points and lines, respectively, setting the scene for every story, while Venier populates those backdrops with extras. Gesing, alternating between soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, is a protagonist on par with Winstone, responding to her every move in dialogic fashion. Four tracks in which Winstone sings wordlessly further highlight these infrastructural relationships. Of these, the jig-like comportment of “Meryton Town Hall” comes as a welcome splash of Technicolor in an otherwise noir-ish program.

Lyrically, too, this record stands out within an already-distinguished discography. Beginning with the title song, one of six for which Winstone penned her own words, and continuing on through to “So Close To Me Blues” (her take on the theme from Taxi Driver), she demonstrates a keen understanding of the magnitude of intimacy, thereby providing shelter for any soul craving refuge from its weary transit.

(This review originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

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