‘Descansado’ reveals the emotional content of the themes. Composed by the Portuguese group Madredeus, ‘Lisbon Story,’ which draws its title from the Wim Wenders film in which it originally appeared, finds Ms. Winstone singing wordlessly as Mr. Gesing’s sax wraps around her in a bright setting. Morricone’s title theme for Giuseppe Tornatore’s ‘Malena’ is given a wistful reading in which a soprano sax passes off its solo to a cello. For that tune, Ms. Winstone composed new lyrics that include the phrase ‘every step, she’s alone,’ which summarizes the title character’s plight. […] On ‘Descansado’, one hears both sides of Ms. Winstone’s approach to song. As ‘Touch Her Soft Lips and Part’ from Laurence Olivier’s ‘Henry V’ opens, she sings a cappella until Mr. Venier enters quietly and Mr. Brunello adds color on the cello. Rota’s ‘Amarcord,’ from the Federico Fellini film, is an integrated full-band performance with Mr. Venier providing a lengthy entrance and exit, and Mr. Norbakken contributing inventive percussion that sounds synthetic but is made with his expanded kit. Meanwhile, Ms. Winstone’s voice and Mr. Gesing’s bass clarinet dance around each other with wise, muted joy. The version of the ‘Taxi Driver’ theme that’s credited to Herrmann evokes the film’s dark, threatening mood, but Ms. Winstone’s new lyrics avoid replicating the narrative, instead communicating the inner life of Iris, the teenage prostitute. She sings, beautifully and mournfully, ‘Life’s a cruel game, survival is its name.’[…] an album of subtle power and lingering splendor.
Jim Fusilli, Wall Street Journal
Die zwölf zum Teil sehr bekannten Kinosongs […] ergeben hier aber keine der üblichen musikalischen Anthologien. Veniers extrem reduzierte Arrangements und Winstones feiner, oft nur gehauchter Gesang verweben sie zu einem einzigen großen Werk, zu dem sich vor dem geistigen Auge der Hörers ein eigener Film entrollt.
Oliver Hochkeppel, Süddeutsche Zeitung
‘Descansado: Songs for Films’ is an unusual and provocative album from Norma Winstone. Her fourth with bass clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Klaus Gesing and pianist Glauco Venier, they are augmented by percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken and cellist Mario Brunello. The 12-track program offers highly original arrangements of songs from cinema, but sounds unlike any other similarly themed collection. Winstone also wrote lyrics for six themes here -- she is widely celebrated for her poetic sensibilities. While Gesing and Venier handle highly original arrangements -- though the most iconic tunes are always recognizable -- Winstone focuses on highlighting the way these songs operated in the relationships between composers and directors, as well as standalone songs. […] ‘Descansado’ is an ensemble recording to be sure, and this group offer tremendous confidence in the elegance of their approach. Winstone is at a career peak here.
Thom Jurek, All Music
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 just the right ambiance are pianist Glauco Venier, soprano saxophonist and bass clarinetist 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. [..] The project 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, UK Vibe
‚Descansado‘ reiht nun Klassiker der Filmmusik wie Perlen auf die Schnur […] Es geht um das Ausleuchten kleiner Gesten, um das Einkreisen vorüberhuschender und doch bedeutungstragender Momente […] In wundervollen Arrangements geben Gesing und Venier diesen Momenten Dauer. Während der Studioaufnahmen in Udine wurde spontan ein Thema aus Godards ‚Die Geschichte der Nana S.‘ in einer berückend innigen wortlosen Variante hinzugefügt, das am Ende dieses neben allen Moden angesiedelten zeitlosen Albums als kurzes Pianosolo noch einmal aufscheint: brillante, rare, diskrete Musik.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Leipziger Volkszeitung
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.
Tyran Grillo, The New York City Jazz Record
A consistently lyrical and artistic take on a set of wonderful melodies, with each one sent through the prism of a unique band. […] With more time for focus, listeners will find that Winstone’s lyrics, set to many of these movie soundtrack melodies that did not have lyrics originally, are worth enjoying. She is attentive to storytelling, vivid imagery and creating fluent content for these themes. She is, herself, a fine writer.
Will Layman, Spectrum Culture
Winstones gehauchte Melodien, Gesings feine Gegenlinien und Veniers Tröpfeltöne vom Klavier ziehen den Hörer in eine entrückte Atmosphäre. Die aber auch aufgebrochen wird, sei es durch eine ausgelassene Melodie aus Wenders‘ ‚Lisbon Story‘, einen Ohrwurm aus ‚Amarcord‘ oder einen Folk-Dance aus ‚Stolz und Vorurteil‘. Mit Konzentration und feinem Spiel, vor allem aber durch die Reverenz an große Filme mittels ihrer Musik, an große Regisseure mittels ihrer Komponisten halten Winstone und die ihren die Spannung.
Berthold Klostermann, Stereo
The great English jazz singer and lyricist Norma Winstone delivers a masterclass in marrying words, melody, mood and storytelling on this, her fourth album with German saxophonist-clarinettist Klaus Gesing and Italian pianist Glauco Venier. Almost fifty years on from her recording debut, Winstone marshals long experience and shrewd musical judgement to sound gracefully ageless, turning these songs by composers including Michel Legrand, Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone and even William Walton into miniature, self-contained films in their own right, her clear diction and warm, assured phrasing negating any need for visual images.
Rob Adams, The Herald
For the latest release, the trio have taken the theme of Songs for Films, and have often reworked the original in a ways that perhaps even the original composer may not instantly recognize. In addition to this they have also brought two new musicians in to the mix with percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken and the cello of Mario Brunello. It is therefore testament to the skill of all that this has not in anyway changed the sound of the trio or their identity but enhanced the overall experience by the subtle use of the new colours available. Often used sparingly as on the beautiful 'Malena' written by Ennio Morricone with its delicate use of percussion and Gesing's haunting soprano saxophone and the lyrical cello, along with Norma's words make this one of the highlights (among many) of the set. […] The album is dedicated in memory of John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler with whom Winstone recorded for ECM as the trio Azimuth, and the it is most fitting that William Walton's beautiful 'Touch Her Soft Lips And Part' with lyrics by Norma, which the late pianist used to play, should be included. This is another superb album from Norma Winstone and her colleagues, that shows how far the trio has developed over the last seventeen years, and shows just how much more there is still to explore.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views
Im Gegensatz zu vielen scheinbar ähnlichen Unternehmen bedient sie sich nicht einfach der eingängigsten filmmusikalischen Ohrwürmer. Zum einen zieht ihre feine kleine Band (als Gäste stossen der Perkussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken und der Cellist Mario Brunello zur Stammbesetzung) die Musik von Michel Legrand, Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, William Walton, Armando Trovajoli und anderen von der grossen Leinwand in feinsinnigen Arrangements ins durchsichtige Kleinformat. Zum andern feiert Winstone die Filme selbst, Werke von Godard, Wenders, Zeffirelli, Fellini, Laurence Olivier, Martin Scorsese, Michael Radford. Denn die Sängerin, und das macht sie zu einer ziemlich einmaligen Ausnahme, schreibt auch Texte, die mehr sind als ‚lyrics‘, nämlich eigentliche Lyrik, die diesen Namen verdient. In ihnen gelingen ihr staunenswert dichte, stimmungsvolle Konzentrate der ganzen Filme, aus denen die Melodien stammen. Ein schönes Gesamtkunstwerk.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche
The bulk of the music this trio has previously performed for ECM—on ‘Distances’ (2008), ‘Stories Yet To Tell’ (2010) and ‘Dance Without Answer’ (2014)—embraces an unconventional waywardness that includes a connection to jazz but more often works in territory more suited to folk and classical realms. ‘Descansado’, while also employing similar strategies (for instance, on Dario Marianelli's lively ode ‘Meryton Town Hall’ from Joe Wright's 2005 film ‘Pride And Prejudice’ with lyrics by Winstone, and on Nina Rota's stately, mournful ‘What Is A Youth?’ from Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film ‘Romeo And Juliet’ with cello and percussion added for emphasis) tacks toward a looser, more improvisatory, jazz sensibility, finding connections between film music and jazz that have been there ever since the first sound film, in 1927, with Al Jolson and ‘The Jazz Singer’. […] Winstone's singing voice remains a constant, no matter who she's playing with, and regardless of content. Like Shirley Horn, she has taken the human voice—the female voice to be specific—and brought us close to her, or her to us, the effect at times part lullaby/bedtime story, part adult imagination given free reign. Not whispering, never belting, she's more than just easy on the ears, capable of moving us to tears, even if she's also capable of the subtle shock, a sudden twist, a harsh interlude. And with a magnetic talent for creating stunning musical alliances, Winstone seems to always end up with highly sympathetic colleagues. It is as if she has been cunning to get the right people all along, fully in control of not only her muse but theirs as well.
John Ephland, All About Jazz