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Kate Westbrook: GRANITE

Roger Farbey By

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Over the years, Kate Westbrook has recorded an impressive number of albums with her husband Mike; from 1975's For The Record onwards. She's released a clutch under her own name too, including Good-Bye Peter Lorre (2005), Cuff Clout (2004) and The Nijinska Chamber (2006)—all on Voiceprint Records. Without doubt, her vocal delivery is stylised and idiosyncratic, arguably reminding listeners of renowned German interwar cabaret and theatrical singers such as Lotte Lenya and Marlene Dietrich. However, she's not just a one trick pony. In addition to playing tenor horn, piccolo and bamboo flute (sadly, not on this album) she's an excellent lyricist, as proven here, drawing on her own perceptive observations of both the natural world and societal memes.

One important point to mention at the outset is that the music for Granite was composed by Mike Westbrook, surely one of the finest and most prolific jazz composers Britain has produced. From the very start, the opener "Tracks Of Desire," evokes memories of Mike Westbrook's early foray into jazz rock with his group Solid Gold Cadillac. "Year's Rotation" is even rockier, adorned by stinging electric guitars. The work's libretto runs as a continuous poem, the words of which are printed in an accompanying booklet. The prose is neatly cut into twenty three short-ish tracks, with a whistled version of Irving Berlin's "Let's Face The Music" as a bonus track, of sorts.

There are moments of almost painful poignancy such as "Curlew Cry" (reprised later in "Yearning Bird"), but not all the songs are so plaintive. Take for example the bouncy reggae-like "Architects And Pornographers," the rapping on "Raw Creation" or the wryly explosive "Quarry Workers And Instrumentalists." There's one actual instrumental, albeit a very brief one, appropriately titled "Wordless, Wordless," which again is reminiscent of Solid Gold Cadillac. There's a distinctly rock-infused feel to the album generally, perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the band's two electric guitarists who afford considerable heft to the music. Notably, throughout this enticingly original textual jazz, the oft-repeated "G" word of the album's title pervades like letters through a stick of seaside rock.

Track Listing: Tracks of Desire; Years of Rotation; Spread-eagled; Glacial Flood; Helpless, Helpless; Curlew Cry; Architects and Pornographers; Sun and Moon; Raw Creation; Rain-soaked Summer; Sun-Warmed Soil; Story; Wordless, Wordless; Bathing Belles and Philosophers; Late Autumn; My Barricade; Salvation; Winter; Æons Old; Exile; Quarry Workers and Instrumentalists; Reckless, Reckless; Yearning Bird; Let’s Face the Music.

Personnel: Kate Westbrook: voice, text; Mike Westbrook: piano, composer; Roz Harding: alto sax; Jesse Molins: guitar; Matthew North: guitar; Billie Bottle: bass guitar; Coach York: drums.

Title: GRANITE | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Westbrook Records

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