Steve Shepherd - 'Epic and ground breaking...'
Rasmus H. Henriksen (musician/composer) - It's a unique album with a sound of its own. It's just great!
G R A N I T E
lyrics Kate Westbrook
music Mike Westbrook
Kate Westbrook voice
THE GRANITE BAND
Roz Harding saxophone
Jesse Molins guitar Matthew North guitar
Billie Bottle electric bass
Mike Westbrook piano/keyboards
Coach York drums
Kate Westbrook’s GRANITE is inspired by her love of Dartmoor and its granite quarries. Her text conjures up the mythical figure of a quarry worker, - labour, love and death in the vast Dartmoor landscape haunted by the absence of the curlew’s cry. Kate’s astonishing vocal range, and strikingly original lyrics are matched by Mike Westbrook’s genre-busting score and the outstanding and inventive playing of Kate’s new group THE GRANITE BAND.
Comissioned by Frank Eichler GRANITE was premiered on June 21st in Ashburton, Devon in the Dartmoor Resonance Music Festival.
GRANITE the album, produced by Jay Auborn and Callum Godfroy, was recorded at dBs Studios, Bristol. International distribution is by Proper Music Distribution. The album may be ordered direct from Westbrook Records.
More information about the CD
Read on 'Sound Technology' what GRANITE producer Jay Auborn has to say about the recording of the Haytor Quarry reverb - https://tinyurl.com/ycoe8akj
photo: Sergio Amadori
GRANITE photo FKADuckh
What they are saying about GRANITE
Sid Smith the Yellow Room - An ace song cycle with a varied & versatile sound featuring forays into rock & blues with Kate's persuasive voice as guide.
Luis Porretta on Facebook - A very moving, creatively powerful suite of compositions by Kate Westbrook and it has to be said, beautifully played by a sympathetic group of musicians. Hats off to the Producer too!
GRANITE is Kate Westbrook's fourth solo album, though saying so seems quite an artificial point given her partnership with husband Mike Westbrook over so many recordings. As he is quick to point out, Kate's texts are crucial to the shaping of compositions and projects.
That said, GRANITE is Kate Westbrook's most ambitious record to date, its libretto matched perfectly by some of the most intriguing music her partner has created during his long career. In fact, these performances would sit as easily alongside albums by the more interesting progressive rock artists such as Faust, Gong and Henry Cow as next for obviously 'jazz' CDs. GRANITE is a timely reminder of the period when the Westbrooks toured extensively with Henry Cow. That its subject matter is the personification of the granite, alien landscape of the Westbrooks' beloved Dartmoor makes their use of rock music both an apt and witty choice.
As ever with the couple, the music and text combine to create a multi-layered entertainment. Here, however, the use of the electric guitars of Matthew North and Jesse Molins allows for diverse textures in the music and contrasting rhythms. This is as true of the opening "Tracks of Desire," as it is of the later "Curlew Cry" or wonderfully atmospheric "Late Autumn." And the guitarists' instrumental duet on "Exile" is a lovely thing, indeed.
But this use of electronic textures also allows Roz Harding's alto to cut through the sound at key points or enables the rhythm section to create a strong counterpoint to the guitars. It helps, of course, that the musicians chosen by Kate Westbrook all play with the Uncommon Orchestra, but it is their own individual qualities that really determines their sympathetic and empathic contributions here.
And there is contrast too offered by quieter numbers such as "Winter," a duet between Kate Westbrook and Harding or the lovely ballad "Yearning Bird." Pacing is another important feature here. For example, as the record comes to its conclusion, the chugging rhythms of "Æons Old" are followed by the soundscape of "Exile," which in turn leads into the rock "Quarry Workers and Instrumentalists," with some excellent rhythm playing from Billie Bottle and Coach York. The two ballads "Reckless, Reckless" and "Yearning Bird" bring a sense of closure before Kate Westbrook signs off whistling Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music."
GRANITE is a fine conceit—witty, charming, surprising and elemental by turns. It's beautifully executed by Westbrook's team of musicians. What more can I say?
Duncan Heining - All About Jazz 2 August 2018
Viv Goodwin-Darke on Facebook - Kate and Mike Westbrook's 'Granite' is, from the first phrase, an exciting journey - prog friends, give this a listen! It's gritty, rocky, tender. It wears a loose jazz overcoat, the rest of the outfit is both 'prog' eccentric and formally smart!
Charles Mapleston director Malachite Films, Film Farm - GRANITE is a most interesting concept and is beautifully recorded with a very tight band,- I especially like the way the talented engineers have brought the reverb of the quarry into the studio. Great performances all round, and yet more new directions for Mike’s music.
Kate and Mike Westbrook have been a formidable partnership on the jazz scene for over six decades. However, their wilful disregard for pigeonholing has seen them explore musical theatre, big bands, cabaret and even opera.
whose bird's-eye view quite literally sees the bigger picture. Kate's voice is imbued with a smoky timbre and patina from a life spent following her muse. Echoing the weather tempered panorama, she pivots from half-whispered lyrics to something approaching a roar.
With Granite Mike has supplied arrangements via a powerful sextet whose direction is more rock than jazz for Kate's song cycle, inspired by her beloved Dartmoor and the Devon landscape where they live. Within a beautifully crafted production, the perspectives between land and sky
In misty guitar pedal swells or amid stark, impassioned sax breaks, she paints the austere contours of the rock and gorse landscape, declaiming her words with a deep, heavy resignation hewn from the remorseless passage of time, or taking flight, swooping to a distant horizon and eventual silence.
The Beauty and the Bleak from Devon-based jazz maven.
From PROG magazine issue 90, August 18, 2018 by Sid Smith
photo: Frank Eichler
photo: Stan Willis
Roz Harding & Billie Bottle
photo: Frank Eichler
photo: Frank Eichler
Jesse Molins & Matthew North
photo: Frank Eichler
Photos from the Ashburton premiere of GRANITE
Dartmoor Resonance Music Festival 21-06-18
Sun and Moon
The Granite Band
Granite is a song cycle about Dartmoor with text by Kate Westbrook and music by Mike Westbrook. This beautiful but forbidding moor, and its granite quarries, is not far from where the Westbrooks live in Devon. Kate Westbrook is also a painter and Dartmoor is a favourite subject. Granite was commissioned by a German fan, Frank Eichler, who spends his summers in South West England, and who loves the moors. It is therefore appropriate that the Westbrooks should conjure up this wild landscape in words and music for his special piece.
The English jazz cannon contains many pastoral depictions, but none like this. There are moments here of lyrical beauty, with sparkling piano, wistful saxophone and evocative text. The rest of the instrumentation is surprising rocky – the fittingly named Granite Band has a rock base and the sound too is literally rock-based. Producer Jay Auborn explains in the sleeve notes: “Echo and reverberation sounds were recorded live at Haytor Granite Quarry. Using… convolution processing, we were able to recreate the unique sound of the quarry back in the recording studio.”
Kate Westbrook has a track record for delving into many musical genres. Jazz, pop, rock ‘n roll, European cabaret and English music hall have all been influential, as have classical music including opera. She is well-known as a performer of contemporary music. Despite knowing of that huge range, this work took me by surprise. It is in essence a concept album, with an extraordinary soundscape. The jazz elements are mixed in with contemporary music and spoken sections. The Blues are definitely in there too, and it will certainly appeal to rock fans – indeed it was reviewed favourably in Prog magazine.
The Granite Band all come from Mike Westbrook’s The Uncommon Orchestra. There are two electric guitarists: jazzer Jesse Mollins and goth rocker Matthew North, both of whom also have their own projects. Mollins has a jazz trio, and North (who incidentally runs the fan club for The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown) plays rock. Billie Bottle, electric bass, is a Westbrook stalwart, who plays piano, guitar, bass guitar and sings in various other Westbrook ensembles. Bottle’s own project is a Canterbury Sound-ish neo-prog outfit Billie Bottle and The Multiple. Coach York is a jazz and rock drummer, who plays with Mollins and other jazz combos. Roz Harding, saxophone, is no stranger to electric guitar music – her own project is the trio Supermood, with guitarist Mike Outram and drummer Jim Bashford. She also plays with Billie Bottle and The Multiple. The rest of the Granite Band are Kate Westbrook, voice, with Mike Westbrook at the piano.
Highlights for me include the opening number Tracks Of Desire, dense ensemble playing, lunging guitars, swooping saxophone above, and below all rumbling drums, spare bass and heavy chords on the piano with Kate giving Marianne Faithfull a run for her money with a smokey deep vocal line. Over the 24 tracks, some of them very short, each musician is given the space to solo. There are different musical textures attained by unusual pairings like voice and saxophone, or spoken word and guitars, all enhanced with the strange atmospheric echoes captured in the quarry. These are very pleasing. There are tumultuous sections with all instruments blazing, contrasted with gentler moments of archetypal Westbrook piano and song.
The Granite lyrics are classic Kate Westbrook: by turns visual, visceral, and stirring. There are three linked sections, which describe the landscape at different seasons of the year. The Westbrooks are fascinated by birdsong, and Kate’s love of the curlew, “yearning bird” as she calls it here, and its lament-like song is a repeated motif in Granite. The lyrics give us vivid close-ups of “summer heather, spore bracken and gold gorse-thorn” but also pull out to long vistas across the moor, and then up to the stars. There is something very dark here. Kate Westbrook wrote recently: “Humour seems important, and yet the song lyrics I am writing at the moment are serious and about the environment, and death and there are few jokes.” The album finishes with the sound of Kate Westbrook, whistling poignantly in an echoing quarry, leaving the listener to ponder the unvoiced words of a popular Irving Berlin song: “Before they ask us to pay the bill and while we still have the chance, Let's face the music and dance.”
This is an exciting and powerful recording full of surprises, which may well find a wider audience among rock and prog devotees.
Jane Mann - London Jazz News - October 2018
Original Spanish text: Francisco Macias (writer)
Translation: Juanfran Andrade
'Granite' stands out as one of the greatest British jazz records in recent years and it does so by means of a cross-generational band that knows nothing about musical styles, just outstanding music.
Granite is an evocation of all things granitic as found amid the unforgiving Dartmoor landscape. Granite could be seen as a counterpoint to Alice Oswald’s Dart poems: Westbrook’s songs of obduracy, immovability and timelessness contrasting with Oswald’s poems of fluidity and flux.
The passage of time may bring constraints to performance - ‘I am restrained’ Westbrook sigh-sings on ‘Winter’ - but it also brings affordances: she can rock out (all pun’s intended) on the opening energies of ‘Tracks of Desire’, but be yearning personified on ‘Curlew Cry’. Her sung-spoken, cabaret style cracks open ‘Spread-Eagled’, with Harding’s keening tone superb, as it is throughout.
Westbrook's is a voice for winter, exile, anger: but also for love and prophecy. Mike Westbrook’s settings leave that voice unrelentingly in our presence, while the addition of found sounds reflecting from granite surfaces further propels the ritualistic, ever re-cycling patterns of these songs into mythic proportions.
Like A Lark Ascending, Granite etherializes into an aery nothingness, as the Westbrooks dissolve into nature itself. On the climactic ‘Yearning Bird’, Mike Westbrook’s chords decay beneath Kate’s voicings as her whistled fragment of ‘Let’s Face the Music’ fades into wind sigh and bird song. Magical.
Andy Robson - Jazzwise - December 2018
Kate was interviewed about GRANITE by Duncan Heining.