Norma Winstone ‘Dance Without Answer’ (ECM) 4/5

Norma Winstone_Dance without answerEnglish vocalist Norma Winstone returns for a third album for ECM and it is a pared down affair with just piano and alternating soprano saxophone and bass clarinet to accompany and featuring an interesting selection of originals and eclectic standards that take in Nick Drake, Fred Neil and Tom Waits as well as the odd gem from the great American songbook. An underlying theme on the recording is Winstone’s reaction to film scores and this is typified on her take on ‘Cucurucucu Paloma’, which Caetono Veloso famously recorded and performed in Pedro Almodovar’s film ‘Talk to her’, but which in a new setting is significantly slower with the singer stretching out the words. A highlight is the wailing soprano saxophone of Klaus Gesing on ‘High Places’ while Winstone indulges in some Italian lyrics on ‘Gust da essi viva’ which works wonderfully on this most haunting of pieces and she should certainly repeat the experience in the future. There is a touch of vocalises on ‘Tor a Tor’ and it is refreshing to hear Winstone’s voice in this new context while she adds lyrics to a Ralph Towner instrumental ‘A breath away’. Of the more contemporary covers, Waits’ ‘San Diego Serenade’ has been regularly performed by the trio live, but in the studio interpretation it is a stark bass clarinet and voice combination. An earlier version featured on the 2002 ECM album ‘Chamber Music’. For those in search of a more conventional delivery, Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s ‘It might be you’ is treated to the eeriest of atmosphere’s by Gesing on bass clarinet and the leader. At times this recording straddles the territory between classical and jazz, but the trios improvisations always end up with the jazz component taking the ascendency. The album starts off with a long instrumental passage on the title track that showcases the pianistic talent of Glauco Venier in tandem with the soprano soloing of Gesing. Tim Stenhouse