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
GRANITE is the latest work from Kate Westbrook. With music by Mike Westbrook.
GRANITE has been commissioned by Frank Eichler, a citizen of Stuttgart. The premiere took place on Thursday 21st June in Ashburton, Devon as part of the Dartmoor Resonance Music Festival, a festival celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Dartmoor Society.
Dartmoor is not far from Kate’s home in Devon, and this new piece springs from her love of the Moor and its granite quarries. She conjures up a landscape which is millennia old, and creates a song around the mythical figure of a quarry worker and of the Curlew.
The album GRANITE with International Distribution by Proper Music Distribution may be ordered direct from
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
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The album GRANITE is released on Westbrook Records
GRANITE WR003 Produced by Jay Auborn, assisted by Callum Godfroy, for dBs Productions.
International Distribution by Proper Music Distribution,
GRANITE may be ordered direct from Westbrook Records'.
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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!
This is the eagerly anticipated new album by British vocalist / lyricist Kate Westbrook, which presents what she calls a soliloquy featuring music composed, as expected, by her husband, pianist / composer Mike Westbrook. She is supported by a sextet called The Granite Band, which in addition to Mike Westbrook also includes saxophonist Roz Harding, guitarists Jesse Molins and Matthew North, bass guitarist Billie Bottle and drummer Coach York. The title piece comprises of twenty three short tracks, split into three song cycles. The album closes with a short version of an Irving Berlin standard, whistled by Kate, which is a perfect ironic ending to the entire piece.
The music is quite unexpected, even to long time Westbrook followers, like yours truly. Although the introductory or epilogue piece in each of the three cycles are presented in the familiar voice / piano format, which the Westbrooks have been using from day one, the rest of the pieces have a strong Rocky character, with dominant electric guitars in the foreground, which goes back stylistically to Westbrook's Solid Gold Cadillac days. At first it is a bit "bizarre", but as the album progresses it does make perfect sense after all.
Kate Westbrook's vocals fit perfectly this unusual, Rocky environment. Her theatrical delivery works with the same effectiveness, regardless of the style that the accompanying music follows, which of course is truly astounding. Although Kate never tried to "sing" in the traditional way, her vocals prove to be more universal than those offered by conventional singers. Her throaty voice is still one of the best means of vocal delivery out there. The libretto, which is included in the album's booklet, is a complex associative / imaginative / metaphoric tale of a granite quarry and its workers, which has a wide spread moral, philosophical and even religious implications, as usual with Kate Westbrook's works. This intellectual layer is of course an integral part of the entire work, complementing it superbly.
The Westbrooks seem to be completely immune to the passing of time and this album, which one would expect to be created by musicians, who are generations younger then the iconic pair, proves that they simply ignore, as they have always done, any stylistic transitory norms, simply doing what they see as appropriate. Although full of Rock and Fusion elements, this music is immediately recognizable as part of the Westbrook legacy, with the same mark of excellence, which accompanies everything they create. Superb stuff!
Adam's Website: https://tinyurl.com/ybxtmj4m
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
Kate Westbrook recently spoke to author Duncan Heining about GRANITE.
All About Jazz: I am enjoying GRANITE a great deal. Tell Mike the music is fantastic. Can I ask what made you decide to form a band at this point in your career?
Kate Westbrook: I wonder if the implication in your question is that seventy-eight is quite an age at which to form a new band. But why not?
Anyway, I'm glad you are enjoying the CD and I do tell Mike the music is fantastic, often. The commission for a new piece came to me from Frank Eichler, who has followed our music for some years. A citizen of Stuttgart, he spends his summer holidays in this country around the South West and, like Mike and me, he is drawn particularly to Dartmoor. I did form a band back in 1994/95, The Skirmishers, an umbrella name for a band which could involve any musician needed for a specific piece. The album Cuff Clout centered around my texts set by eight composers from different areas of music,-rock, jazz, 'pop,' contemporary.
I had wondered about reviving the Skirmishers but found that, in the intervening years, it had been taken up by another band. So, when we settled on the title GRANITE for the project, the name of the band simply had to be The GRANITE Band.
AAJ: One of the many interesting aspects of GRANITE is the way you repeat the lyrics but place them in different musical contexts. This was something you and Mike also did with the lovely Chanson Irresponsable. It's a practice common in classical music and opera but not in jazz. Is this something that relates to the way painters view their subjects, constantly re-examining them from fresh angles?
KW: When Frank commissioned the new piece, his brief was that Dartmoor should be the subject and that it should use my full emotional range as a vocalist. Initially, I thought of my 'creature' and then, with a tip of the hat to Hamlet and Molly Bloom, of a soliloquy. The soliloquy allows one to move freely between threads of thought and images. The structure and patterns of the text initially, and subsequently in the music, determined the varied idioms and their reappearances.
AAJ: That's right. As you say, the main theme of the lyrics involves a personification of the Dartmoor landscape close to your home. I wondered how far your work as a painter informed the ideas and lyrics on GRANITE?
KW: As you know, I have been painting and drawing on Dartmoor over many years. I am drawn to that landscape as to no other. Mike and I go up to Haytor whenever we have the chance and visit the quarry with our paints and pens in all seasons to spend hours drawing there. A couple of times, we have been treated to the song of the willow warbler. Painting always informs the music, thinking in terms of composition, texture, colour, line. And the same applies in the other direction: painting informs the words, as well. Synaesthesia, though I don't have an extreme form of the condition.
AAJ: Dartmoor is also a place of work and this is a secondary theme on the record. In a way, the album juxtaposes the permanent/landscape against the temporary/human. How would you respond to this suggestion?
KW: Yes, you have it absolutely. I wanted to keep an ambiguity about humankind's engagement with Nature. Personification and Animism quite appeal to me. So, we have a mythical Quarry-worker who is both human and part of the landscape itself. But I want to emphasise that the ambiguous nature of this creature is an essential element. There is an underlying (I hope not didactic) concern with the relationship between humankind and the earth, between our responsibility for the planet and the death of both the Quarry-worker and the earth itself, between the environment and mortality.
AAJ: How did you arrive at the decision to use rock rhythms (given the subject an appropriate and witty choice) and how much input did you have to the music that Mike has created?
AAJ: You use two guitars and a saxophonist along with piano, bass guitar and drums. What was it about this line-up that attracted you?
KW: This relates back to your first question. As you know all the members of The GRANITE Band are also in Mike's Uncommon Orchestra. The stage plan for the Orchestra had me Stage Right in front of the two guitarists. My heart sank and my ears began to ring when I realised this was so. But, in truth, it has been a great pleasure in performances of A Bigger Show to be near the two of them on stage, bang inside their sound.
After Mike, Jesse and Matt were the first members of the new band. Coach is a fine musician and a potent presence on stage, so he was essential to the GRANITE venture. Roz is a saxophonist whose playing I admire and I like her very much. Also, in The Uncommon Orchestra is the exceptional multi-instrumentalist Billie Bottle, and here she plays bass guitar. Billie and Coach have developed a good rapport. As the French say—the band is good both musically and humanly.
Since moving to Devon, it has proved a fine thing to have a pool of musicians living in the area who are keen to rehearse regularly. Over recent years, for Mike I know, the way in which compositions evolve is helped enormously by frequent sessions of experimentation with the musicians involved. This has been true with GRANITE too.
KW: The words and initial structure are mine, thereafter the music is Mike's and he created the musical ideas that run though the piece. (You can see in the album booklet the grid structure that has been our bible). Having said that, we work so closely together that I will ask him to change a note or a phrase to suit the expressiveness of the words, or my vocal range. I may suggest a particular mood for a section. He will come back with a request for more words or a change of words. Ours is a continuing dialogue. For instance, with the section entitled "Exile," I asked Mike to make this Hymn-like. In fact, there are Christian references throughout GRANITE.
Back in 2016, when Mike Westbrook released his album 'A Bigger Show' supported by his new band, 'The Uncommon Orchestra', I was frankly surprised. Not only for the quality of the compositions, an obvious trademark of this British Jazz pioneer, but also for the power of their performance and the array of influences from rock and other genres, assimilated into an idea that transcends the concept of 'jazz music'. Something to keep in mind is that a lot of musicians from the same generation have become more and more 'classical' and conservative as they grow old, but with Mike, 82 years old now, and his wife Kate, at 78, this has not been the case. That is why this wonderful couple, whom I have been fortunate enough to meet in person and watch them play live on two occasions, has again left me pleasantly surprised.
'Granite' is the new Kate Westbrook record and it's really fantastic. She takes care of the lyrics and Mike provides the music, although the two of them have generally collaborated closely in the conception of the album. The work was commissioned by a German fan of the Westbrooks' music, Frank Eichler. It centres around Dartmoor, the legendary place in Devon where 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' is set, and which is actually a granite moorland (hence the name of the album) with National Park status. For the recording, Kate chose several members of the 'Uncommon Orchestra' to form the 'Granite Band', including herself on vocals, Mike on piano, Roz Harding on saxes, Jesse Molins and Matthew North on electric guitars, Billie Bottle on bass and Coach York on drums.
The album's structure is really curious. Kate, in the form of a soliloquy, has made a concept album divided into three cycles that, though not identical, reproduce both lyrical and musical forms in a way that I really enjoy. The text, full of metaphors, shows her passion for Dartmoor, her connection with this place near her home and the dichotomy between the permanent presence of the landscape and the temporary interaction with man, especially in the great granite quarries found on the National Park. The music, based on her voice and Mike's piano, spreads towards the fields of jazz and rock; one can even find small parts close to Rock in Opposition.
The album and the first cycle open with 'Tracks of Desire' (4'36). A base of piano, a bass that takes us back to the early 1970s and the British jazz of that era, and the wonderful, ever so deep voice of Kate singing a lovely tune that will be heard several times throughout the record. The guitar-made soundscapes and a magnificent sax solo only make the song better. It is followed by 'Year's Rotation' (1'55), a piece with a repeating pattern built around a powerful guitar-and-sax riff, with Kate masterfully uttering a mere couple of lines. 'Spread-Eagled' has a brilliant and very dramatic start that is succeeded by a superb instrumental passage with a rhythm section in the finest British jazz tradition and a nice saxophone solo, well surrounded by the guitars; voice and piano are then left on their own again, giving way to 'Glacial Food'(1'00), a brief upbeat tune containing a vocal melody that will appear later on, and 'Helpless, Helpless' (1'43), with stunning bass and drums and a soprano saxophone reminiscent of Lindsay Cooper, Henry Cow and the like. Drama returns with 'Curlew Cry' (7'01), a piece that wonderfully combines once more the slower voice-and-piano parts with instrumental sections led by the rest of the band. The first cycle finishes with 'Architects and Pornographers' (4'48), a rhythmical song with a melody that brings us back to the beginning of the album and which also includes two solos by Billie Bottle and Jesse Molins that stand out.
As the second cycle opens, everything starts to sound familiar. On 'Sun and Moon' (2'24) the initial melody can be heard again, played by voice and piano alone. On 'Raw and Creation' (3'12) we find the same spirit as in 'Year's Rotation', only improved, made into an intense track with moments of free jazz madness. The piece grows rapidly with huge strength until it leads into 'Rain-Soaked Summer' (5'21), which has guitar soundscapes replacing the piano parts that Mike used to accompany the voice in 'Spread-Eagled'. I love Jesse's guitar solo and the backing the rhythm section provides. The excellent bass line on the lively 'Sun-Warmed Soil' (1'40), the gorgeous sax on 'Story' (3'04), the RIO explosion of 'Wordless, Wordless' (1'11) or the austerity of 'Bathing Belles and Philosophers' (1'17) recreate the first cycle in various ways and helps us to further deepen our immersion in the album. The second cycle ends with a recited coda, 'Late Autumn' (1’15), presenting mysterious sound effects and the guitar of Matthew North.
The beautiful opening melody returns, enlivened, at the start of the third cycle, 'My Barricades' (3'38). A good guitar solo by Jesse is added, leading into 'Salvation' (2'26), a powerful, intense, energetic tune with some lovely saxophone motifs. The gloomy moments come back with 'Winter' (2'20), which takes us to 'Aeons Old' (2'13) and its fantastic guitar-sax dialogue over a mighty rhythm section, followed by 'Exile' (2'58'), where the vocal 'drama' is accompanied by marvelous guitar arrangements. Rock elements reappear on 'Quarry Workers and Instrumentalists' (3'09), with a catchy sax riff and another good guitar solo by Matthew North. The 'perverse' atmosphere distinctive of RIO can be heard again, although in a calmer fashion, on 'Reckless, Reckless' (3'46). This takes us to the finale on 'Yearning Bird' (4'15), combining Mike's piano, Kate's voice and Roz Harding's beautiful saxophone play. Once the third cycle has reached its conclusion, we can hear Kate whistling Irving Berlin's classic 'Let's Face the Music' and the album comes to an end.
Mike and Kate Westbrook prove with this work that not only is age not a factor when it comes to creating good music, but that it also isn't a barrier to continue being artistically curious either. '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.
Original Spanish text: Francisco Macias
Translation: Juanfran Andrade
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.