In 1985 John and Margery Styles founded the newsletter, the Smith's Academy Informer, for those people interested in Westbrook and associates. Through this publication they made many personal friends and encouraged many people to follow the music.
From the Smith's Academy
Informer no 16 August 1989
"John's many friends, including jazz musicians and fellow jazz lovers, will mourn the passing of a man whose generosity of spirit and zest for life were a blessing to all who knew him.
Those whose only contact with John may have been through his involvement with the Informer will have sensed both the dedicated lover of music and the energetic man of irrepressible good humour."
From the Smith's Academy Informer no 81 September 2008
"Margery was enormously supportive of our circle of musicians. She was an invaluable member of 'the team'. She often helped out at gigs. She toured with the trio in Singapore and Australia and we had many adventures.
She had an infectious humour and sense of the ridiculous and always seemed to be surrounded by laughter."
full article from the Smith's Academy Informer
In 2008, in the ﬁnal months of her illness Margery Styles decided to commission a piece of music from Mike and me, to commemorate her life, and that of her husband John who died in 1989. Characteristically she didn’t mention her bequest to us, and, soon after her funeral, we were astonished to have this great opportunity.
In discussions with Margery’s close friends Chris Assheton and Penny Valender, we decided to write a piece to be recorded as an album. This we have done in FINE ‘n YELLOW.
Last Christmas I started work on the texts for the piece. My aim was to achieve a balance between the general and the particular, - the words were to reflect the lives of John and Margery and still be accessible to people who hadn’t known them personally.
I handed the texts over to Mike. Subsequently he bounced some passages back to me for revision, but in the main took the words I had written and shaped a new musical world full of surprises.
Originally the album title was to have been simply YELLOW but Coldplay got there first. Given Margery and John’s love of jazz, and love of the colour yellow, I decided on FINE ‘n YELLOW taking one small liberty with the Billie Holiday song title.
Not long after John died, Margery came to a performance by the Westbrook Trio (Mike, saxophonist Chris Biscoe and me). She was wearing a coat of John’s so that, as she said, “he too in a sense would hear the music”. This jacket was a familiar sight on gigs for some years thereafter,- it was far too big for her and she looked delightful in it. Remembering the wearing of the jacket gave rise to the song “My Lover’s Coat”. Margery travelled widely with us, and it seemed as though she were speaking to John as she travelled, and he to her (“My Lover’s Heart”).
“Yellow Dog” springs from hearing about the visit Margery made to the grave of the father she never knew, who died in 1942 as a prisoner of war on the infamous Burma railway.
Chris Biscoe and his wife Sue Avenill were close to Margery and to John. “Dollarbird" (the title taken from the common name for the Eastern Broadbilled Roller ) is Chris’s improvisation on “Yellow Dog”.
Mike has taken “My Lover’s Coat” as a starting point for his solo improvisation “Through the Dark”. Pete, whose playing Margery also loved, uses the same musical springboard on his “Yellow Tracery” which leads into “My Lover’s Heart”.
Last autumn I was standing in our small yard looking at the last remaining leaf on our fig tree. The leaf being yellow, made me think of Margery,- hence “Yellow Fig Leaf”.
Finally comes “What I Like”. Both John and Margery were terrific enthusiasts and enjoyed life hugely. and the song aims to reflect their exuberance. They met while working for Guinness and subsequently they ran pubs in various parts of the UK, hence the opening verses.
We are sure that Margery and John would be glad to feel that the composition will have a life after the recording and we hope at some stage in the future there will be ‘live’ performances of FINE ‘n YELLOW.
Kate Westbrook March 2009
FINE ‘n YELLOW is the latest in a sequence of compositions (Art Wolf, Waxeywork Show, The Nijinska Chamber, Cape Gloss, English Soup) that have Kate’s lyrics as their starting point. Allowing the shape of her texts to determine the musical form, rather than coercing the words into existing structures, I find musically liberating.
In Yellow Dog the vocal line and bass line unfold together in simple phrases, without repetition, over a long, open-sounding structure. I wanted a particular sound for the instrumental theme, and found it with the combination of alto sax and the bass clarinet in its upper register.
With the exception of the opera, Cape Gloss, Kate’s voice has been central to all this recent work. In FINE ‘n YELLOW I was particularly drawn to write for the deeply expressive lower range of her voice. A classical composer at a Duo performance was astonished to hear Kate effortlessly hitting the C below middle C. In the jazz world we sometimes take for granted the way in which musicians are constantly extending their range and vocabulary. Plenty of evidence of that here, in Chris’s alto solo as well as Kate’s vocal (in which she goes down to the A below the C below middle C, almost the lower limit of the tenor sax). In Yellow Dog Jon’s masterly playing, and characteristic use of the double bass drum, provides constantly changing rhythmic interest and conveys that restless energy that I so wanted, in opposition to the slow, blues-like mood of the piece.
A common factor in the compositions I’ve listed is the use of only a few instruments. Cape Gloss has just voice and piano, The Nijinska Chamber voice and accordion, the Village Band mostly voice and five horns, Art Wolf a quartet of voice/tenor horn, piano/euphonium and two saxes. And of course the voice/piano duo has become an important vehicle for our music. Working with a limited palette really focuses the mind. It’s a far cry from writing for Big Band, where the great number of instruments available offers a temptation to use all of them. Working with just a handful of musicians, and not even using all of them all the time, makes me think “What do I really need? What can I leave out?”
That the stripping away of non-essentials makes the music stronger, is demonstrated in My Lover’s Coat which concentrates on just Kate’s voice and Steve’s double bass, with minimal keyboard, and brushes. This begins like a traditional jazz sequence, but then opens up, with a minor key section in the middle in which four-bar phrases are placed over a three-bar chord pattern.
My Lover’s Heart, an extended version of the same structure, uses the full forces of the group with Pete, on clarinet, as soloist , plus a unique (as far as I know) clarinet section consisting of the alto and bass members of the family. And Steve’s playing on this track, as throughout the album, is a joy.
The lower register of Kate’s voice is featured again in Yellow Fig Leaf, floating over a fast rhythm laid down by Jon and by Steve on multiple double basses using his remarkable ‘stick’ technique. Here the horns are soprano sax and bass clarinet.
What I Like is a groove that can only be Jazz - in three/four time, but with a two/four feel on top of it . This is introduced by “chopsticks” style piano, and there is considerable interplay between the two rhythms. There is some similarity with the ending of Chanson Irresponsable, ‘Gone (Travel Light)’, as we hear Chris and Pete on alto saxes, - two improvisers whose distinctive approaches and quick-fire exchanges continue to challenge and inspire each other, and the rest of us. And I had the chance to try a brand new sax section sound; - two soprano saxes playing in the lower register make a very funky combination. With Kate’s catalogue of likes and blessings, vocal interjections by the band, jazz quotes and to cap it all, a classic solo by one of the great drummers, we really pulled all the stops out to round off this tribute to Margery and John.
1. Fine and Mellow
2. Yellow Dog
4. My Lover's Coat
5. Yellow Fig Leaf
6. Through The Dark
7. Yellow Tracery
8. My Lover's Heart
9. What I Like
Kate Westbrook voice
Chris Biscoe alto & soprano saxophones/alto clarinet
Peter Whyman alto & soprano saxophones/clarinet/bass clarinet
Mike Westbrook piano & keyboards
Steve Berry double bass
Jon Hiseman drums
Recording directed, engineered and mixed by Jon Hiseman
at Temple Music Studios, Sutton, Surrey, Jan/Feb 2009
Special thanks to Chris Assheton, Jonathan Davies,
Jane Gracie, Penny Valender.
LIMITED EDITION 2009
Commissioned by the Margery Styles Estate
for friends and relatives of Margery and John.
NEW EDITION 2014
Issued on ASC CD149
CD Available from
also Flac and MP3 downloads
John & Margery Styles
Memorably too, she came with the Orchestra for its three day festival in Catania, Sicily in 1992. Always positive, outgoing and genuinely interested in people, Margery always got on friendly terms with the locals.