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!
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
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!
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Kate was interviewed about GRANITE by Duncan Heining.
‘GRANITE’ is one of Sid Smith’s albums of the year 2018
Sunday 14th June 2020 doors 7:30 pm music 8:00 pm
Exeter EX4 3LS
Saturday 11th July 2020
Swanage Jazz Festival
See also Kate's Diary
Kate Westbrook and Mike Westbrook
photo: Stan Willis
I first heard Kate Westbrook back in 1973, when she played tenor horn in her husband Mike’s brass band at the E1 Festival in Stepney, east London. Since those days she’s become an outstanding jazz vocalist and now in her 80th year she’s delivered the album Granite, perhaps her most singular achievement.
Westbrook spent much of her childhood and schooling near Dartmoor and vividly remembers the curlew’s song but now there are only a few nesting pairs on that vast moor: “In Granite, I try to show the nobility of human endeavour and the paradoxical destruction of our planet.”
She found the spirit of the quarry worker — “flesh become stone,” she explains — in the rock and her album evokes the abandoned quarry at Haytor and its past international links. “It bears traces of human labour, the vestiges of stone tracks where a horse-drawn cart carried granite loads to the river, then the cargo travelled by boat to the sea and out across the world.”
Thus her words and voice travel, joining with the song of the Blues which, Kate asserts, is “lifelong and universal. The Blues has no place for vanity. It is plugged into the eternal.”
As part of the recording, engineers Jay Auburn and Callum Godfroy carried a large speaker up to the quarry and played a swooping signal covering its complete sonic range and echo. Then Mike took her texts and added his “wonderful” themes and orchestration.
“His piano is a unique and rich voice that I have loved so profoundly through our 45 years of collaboration,” Kate says. “His music makes the seven-piece band sound intimate at times and massively orchestral at others.
“The violence of the climate and industrial action upon the landscape is conjured by the soundscape, as are the infinitesimally small noises of snowfall, bud-burst and wind-drift.”
It was important that all of the musicians of her Granite Band are south-west based and know Dartmoor. “It gives an added piquancy to our interpretations,” she says.
She pays tribute to the interaction and different interpretative approaches of guitarists Jesse Molins and Matthew North, while saxophonist Roz Harding is “a very gifted player, the brilliant drummer Coach York has a generous understanding of the music and texts and Billie Bottle on electric bass is an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist.”
Kate’s empathy with the quarry worker, “cutting, carting granite by day,” is profound as he/she searches for “the song I love across the moor/Across the granite Tor/ pray come the song I hold dear” to find “youth/ wisdom and the voice to carve out the Blues.”
Her own lifetime of singing reflects this eternal quest as if it were to find the song of her life too in all the clubs, cabarets and theatres of the world. A special life, as is Granite. Fusing labour and art, nature and beauty, the song and human will and aspiration, it holds a visceral warning and message to the future from the past and the present.
As Kate blew her horn in the summer of 1973 in Stepney, who knew then what struggles and menaces the next half century would bring and how she would express and illuminate them.
Chris Searle - Morning Star
Read Jane Mann's London Jazz News Review of GRANITE
Dr. Bert Noglik broadcaster and producer - I'm very impressed by the poetic dimension, the depth, the play with sensual experience and metaphoric associations, as well as by the variety of musical approaches, never losing a common ground.
Kate Westbrook and The Granite Band @ Kings Place 16/05/2019
Review by Richard Lee
I’d given the Granite album a few listens and (because all the puns have already been done) was really taken by the sheer rockiness of it… I first saw Mike way back in the '70s, with a quartet that eventually became Solid Gold Cadillac, and that model is back in production with The Granite Band. It really is like an old favourite coming back, with all the design delights (think Fiat 500) but with the built-in efficiency that comes with maturity. If anything, I was put in mind of those highly adept prog bands like Caravan, Henry Cow and Hatfield and the North.
I’m most taken with the theatricality of the Westbrook’s work: it’s almost always about something. If it’s not artists (Blake, Turner, Rossini) then it’s places or ways of life (Chicago, Catania, Uri). Here, in a work that sits with their best, the text celebrates Kate & Mike’s home patch, the ambience and wildlife of Dartmoor. Again I felt lucky to have familiarised myself with the album as I found quite a bit of the text deep in the sound-mix (which was instrumentally excellent). It might have been helpful to have the text in the programme. It’s a poetic painting, much in keeping with Kate’s powerful canvases, using blunt Hughes-ian adjectives like verbal impasto, and creating edgy surrealist rhymes (“…Fiscal Analysts will lose…burn out the Blues.”) Kate’s cabaret voice swoops and slinks with the poetry but also purrs and palpitates as she breaks words into constituent parts and fires them at us like percussive riffs. I was impressed with the lighting too which, after a shaky start on the spots, was sensitive to and evocative of both text and music.
As ever, Mike provides some great riffs for the band, as in Helpless, Helpless, and some recurring yearning themes, in Sun & Moon, My Barricade and Reckless, Reckless. His own blues-inflected solo moments, such as the wonderful Curlew Cry, are treasurable miniatures.
I’ve written before about the awesome Roz Harding and her contributions tonight only raise the praise index. Outside of the big band context of the Uncommon Orchestra she is aided and abetted by the guitars of Matthew North and Jessie Molins, the latter often play in unison with her. That seemed to me a new incarnation of Westbrook’s powerful reeds and brass front lines, with Jesse’s muscular fretting playing the tenor foil to Roz’s alto and soprano. The same could be said for Billie Bottle’s bass, not just a powerful underpinning but an equally important melodic voice in the band. The south-west supergroup is completed by Coach York’s powerhouse kit work. Like the whole evening, very hard, granular, crystalline, and totally rock solid…
The album finishes with a whistled, wistful coda, Irving Berlin’s Let’s Face The Music; tonight, after this terrifically rousing London premiere, the encore was appropriately upbeat and optimistic – I just wish I knew what the number was! *
Richard Lee - London Jazz News 18 May 2019
* For anyone else who might be wondering, the encore was a new arrangement of "The Streams of Lovely Lucienne" which first appeared on the album "Platterback"