A neoteric music-hall
The front & back cover of Cuff Clout
released by Voiceprint on 16 February 2004.
With CUFF CLOUT Kate Westbrook presents a new take on the English Music-Hall. The dominant form of popular entertainment throughout the early 20th century, Music-Hall was a loose assemblage of songs and sketches, both comic and serious, spiced with political satire and sexual innuendo.
In her neoteric Music-Hall, - "a Music-Hall for the 21st century", Kate brings together the disparate elements of traditional Music-Hall in a thoroughly contemporary context. Her lyrics embrace tragedy and comedy, and range from high art to knock-about. By inviting 8 composers from across the whole spectrum of contemporary music to set her texts, Kate has ensured a rich and surprising mix of musical genres.
Kate and her accomplice John Winfield produce an astonishing variety of vocal performances and characterisations, sometimes solo, sometimes as a double act, as they move through a sequence of dramatically varied musical settings.
Marching under the banner of 'The Skirmishers', the 20 or so performers on the album represent a cross section of the UK's most accomplished and creative musicians, - rock, jazz, classical and pop.
Recording directed, engineered and mixed by Jon Hiseman
Concept and production Kate Westbrook
Co-producer John Winfield
Music Co-ordinator Mike Westbrook
recording funded by Airshaft Trust
Cuff Clout was recorded at Temple Music Studios, Sutton, November 2001.
Music originally commissioned by Kate Westbrook in 1994
with funds from the Arts Council of England.
CD released by Voiceprint on 16 February 2004.
See the Cuff Clout CD page for details.
Information and Booking: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alarmingly subtitled a 'neoteric music hall', this astonishing piece of work is a loosely organized entertainment by Kate's Skirmishers, a group of doughty (ir) regulars who snipe away all signs of pretension, injustice and cruelty. Hence pieces about the invention of barbed wire, a narrative turning of the tables that makes Toad's washerwoman the heroine rather than the overblown amphibian himself, along with sundry bittersweet love songs. The composers concerned (all working to Kate's texts) are as various as Eleanor Alberga, Barbara Thompson, Jenni Roditi, James MacMillan and Errollyn Wallen. A floating personnel supports Kate and fellow vocalist John Winfield. Starring items are Thompson's strange rock-rap 'Oceans, Straits, Currents and Seas' and Chris Biscoe's 'Joseph F. Glidden of De Kalb, Illinois', a tale of the man who first exploited mankind's cruellest invention. It's all stirring and moving stuff, and one looks forward to seeing it staged.
Richard Cook & Brian Morton.
Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
Penguin Guide Rating
How do you find a pigeonhole big enough to accommodate a piece of work like this? It describes itself as a 'neoteric music hall', or newfangled variety show. The nine pieces, words by Kate Westbrook and music by such contemporary composers as Errollyn Wallen, Barbara Thompson and James McMillan, are, by turns, funny, exhilarating, weird and vaguely disturbing. The 20 musicians involved come largely from the jazz world, some of them very distinguished names indeed, such as Peter King, Alan Barnes, Mike Carr and Steve Brown. The vocal performers are Kate Westbrook herself and John Winfield. It is all hugely entertaining, not least because you never know what's coming next, although you can be sure it will be expertly done.
Dave Gelly. The Observer.
...this record is a triumph for Kate's multiple talents.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise Aug 2004
Intensely moving, witty, charming and touching by turns, the album provides a perfect vehicle for the dramatic vocal skill of both Kate Westbrook and her singing partner John Winfield and shines an intriguing new light on a neglected but distinctive area of English culture.
Jazz at Ronnie Scott's, July 2004
British vocalist Kate Westbrook has a gift for music theater. Updating early 20th-century English music hall on Cuff Clout, Westbrook sets her witty and eccentric texts to bold and fascinating genre-crossing music composed by eight collaborators, including her bandleader husband Mike Westbrook and other Anglo jazz worthies Chris Biscoe, Lindsay Cooper and Barbara Thompson. Maintaining a wicked edginess in her rich, limber voice, she skewers the memory of the millionaire inventor of barbed wire on "Glidden" and plumbs a gloomy, stately mood on the striking piano-and-voice ballad "My Lazy Goodheart," where her emotional timbre suggests blood ties to Marianne Faithfull. John Winfield is one hell of a lead singer, too, playing the part of a jailbird's confederate to the hilt in "Toad's Washerwoman" and wrenching cryptic meaning out of the words to "The Riddle."
Together, Westbrook and Winfield embark on a cosmic journey singing the terrifically daft "Oceans, Straits, Currents & Seas"-think Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron and private eye John Shaft sharing a pickle jar full of LSD. Kate's Skirmishers band performs with a deft touch, whether sounding like an old strip joint combo on "Toad's Washerwoman" or enshrouding "One Cezanne Apple" with a Third Stream funereal air. Getting comfortable with Westbrook's "neoteric music hall" may take some work but it's worth it.
Frank-John Hadley - Downbeat, October 2004
With contributions from the likes of Jenni Roditi, Mike Westbrook and Errollyn Wallen, among others, interest for the listener is guaranteed. Kate Westbrook is the contributor of the lyrics, which she has crafted with skill and performs with aplomb. The combination of her Lenya-like voice with that of of John Winfield's clear jazz tenor works exceptionally well. The album has been stunningly produced and engineered."
Antonia Couling - The Singer, June / July 2005