Norma Winstone ‘Descansado: Songs For Films’ (ECM) 4/5

Manfred Eicher has long championed the combining of visual and audio images, with albums devoted to Greek film soundtrack composers and even a Jean-Luc Godard tribute to the French nouvelle vague era. On this occasion, singer Norma Winstone has devoted the entire album to exploring her favourite film soundtracks from different eras, with an emphasis on Italian composers, and the result is a wonderful evocation of cinema history in musical form. Helping her to create the right just the right ambiance are pianist Glauco Venier, soprano saxophonist and bass clarinettist Klaus Gesing, with additional layers provided on both cello and percussion. Winstone’s own gifted songwriting talents are deployed, with the occasional instrumental providing variety. An outstanding contribution is made on William Walton’s, ‘Touch her soft lips and part’, where the lyrics set the scene on a distant parting of beings, and cello and piano operate in tandem here. Indeed, this piece has a personal poignancy for Winstone in that it was also a favourite of her late husband, pianist John Taylor, who performed a trio rendition on ECM alongside Pete Erskine. Enrico Morricone composed many memorable pieces for film and one of his later offerings was for the soundtrack to, ‘Malena’, and the combination of piano and vocals beautifully captures the retro melancholy of the film itself, while another Italian film classic, ‘Today, Tomorrow’, is retitled to become the album title track. The ode to Italian cinema, ‘Il postino’, is treated on this occasion to a gentle interpretation with a discreet cello and a lovely, leisurely bass clarinet solo. Martin Scorsese’s cult, ‘Theme for Taxi driver’, was composed by Bernard Hermann, who of course, was the musical brains behind so many of the Hitchcock 1950’s classics, and the Scorsese soundtrack now has lyrics added and is transformed into the newly titled, ‘So close to me blues’. Godard’s early 1960’s film, ‘Vivre sa vie’, is performed as an instrumental with piano intro and a haunting soprano solo from Gesing. Rounding off the homage are some gorgeous digital black and white prints of actress Anna Karina in ‘Vivre sa vie’. The projects as a whole is devoted to John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler, both of whom regularly performed with the singer. An album of wider interest to fans of cinema and quality music.

Tim Stenhouse