Windmills, umbrellas and the art of fine brilliance: Swedish singer Rigmor Gustafsson sings the songs from the films of Michel Legrand – “On My Way To You”
"She’s always had a good ear for good composers", declares trombonist Nils Landgren in the booklet for this CD. And who is "she"? None other than the incredible Swedish singer Rigmor Gustafsson. Gustafsson, who was celebrated at the 2001 JazzFest in Berlin as "a new star in the vocal heavens", earns acclaim for "her great voice and stage presence" from Nils Landgren. Both the voice and a sensitive ear for composers are brought together on her third CD for ACT. For "On My Way To You" Gustafsson focuses on songs written over the past decades by the world famous Frenchman Michel Legrand. Legrand is the winner of three Oscars and five Grammies. Special material for a special voice.
Michel Legrand, born in Paris in 1932, has established himself over the past half century as a musician who will have everlasting impact not just through his songs and music for film but also in the classical world as a successful conductor and composer. For example, he wrote and conducted the music for the Barbra Streisand success "Yentl" (1983), as well as individual songs for screen greats from Paris and Hollywood. He has worked with stars such as Miles Davis, Edith Piaf, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Lena Horne and many others. Some of his melodies belong to the most popular of all time: they are whistled during walks in the park, and they are known in many versions. Indeed we rarely actually even consider where they come from.
Such a song is "The Windmills Of Your Mind" – sung on this album by Rigmor Gustafsson with an intense melancholy and tender mysteriousness. It comes from the 1967 version of "The Thomas Crowne Affair" (with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway). The sophisticated way in which the melody is put together creates such a pleasant effect that her sophisticated blast of fresh air will keep the song's windmills turning for a long time to come.
It is almost impossible to count up all of of Legrand's worldwide successes, but here are at least a few: "How Do You Keep The Music Playing?" – performed by Rigmor Gustafsson as a shimmering duet with Magnum Coltrane Price – comes from the 1982 film "Best Friends" (with Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn); the popular jazz standard You Must Believe in Spring" from "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort" released in 1968 is sung by Rigmor Gustafsson with a particularly elastic jazz feel. In addition there are two tracks from the 1963 groundbreaking musical film "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg" directed by Jacques Demy and starring the young Catherine Deneuve: "Watch What Happens" and "Where's The Love". The title song of Gustafsson's previous album "I Will Wait For You" (ACT 9418-2) is also from "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg".
Rigmor Gustafsson's new album shows continuity not just from her first success on ACT (ACT 9418-2) but also her second, "Close To You" (ACT 9703-2), her homage to soul diva Dionne Warwick. Michel Legrand's music has close affinity to that of Burt Bacharach, who wrote many of Dionne Warwick's worldwide hits. Both are masters of the unforgettable tune. And Rigmor Gustafsson is the perfect interpreter: a singer with a great awareness for the nuances of a voice's tone; simultaneously she is one whose voice has a strong degree of glamour, a quiet but unobtrusive twinkle and a many-sided glister – just as one recollects from the famous films.
Gustafsson's interpretations of Legrand are both measured and smooth. And, as they were written for films, they allow the singer to take on musical roles. The tenderness, the elegance, the emotional depths, the softness, the naïve childishness or plainness, a vocal beauty – Rigmor Gustafsson achieves all these on the different songs on this album. The transparent, carefully-worked arrangements, using Hammond organ, accordion or Wurlitzer – and not least Nils Landgren's trombone – often leave adequate space to heighten the emotional impact. They give these interpretations the feel of an atmospheric intensity as a short film. The combination of Legrand's melodies and Gustafsson's voice makes a perfect match.