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 narative 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
Mike Westbrook Recordings
Kate Westbrook & The Skirmishers
Recording directed, engineered and
mixed by Jon Hiseman
Concept and production
Co-producer John Winfield
in which the Skirmishers arrive
music by Lindsay Cooper
a contrary love song
music by Jenni Roditi.
conducted by Jenni Roditi.
3.The Devil and The Canny Lad
music James McMillan.
arranged Dudley Phillips
4. My Lazy Goodheart
a parlour ballad
music Errollyn Wallen
song for a be-bop diva
music Mike Westbrook
directed by Mike Westbrook.
6.Joseph F. Glidden of De Kalb, Illinois
in which the estimable J.F.G. recounts the sensational history of that most efficacious commodity ... Barbed Wire
music Chris Biscoe
7. One Cezzanne Apple
a song of death
music Eleanor Alberga.
conducted by Eleanor Alberga
8. Oceans, Straits, Currents and Seas
a boastful rock-rap
music Barbara Thompson
9. Cuff Clout
the Skirmishers depart
music Lindsay Cooper
Kate Westbrook voice (1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9)
John Winfield voice (1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9)
Stuart Brooks trumpet (1,9)
Chris Biscoe alto sax (1,6,9)
Tim Holmes sopranino/soprano sax (7)
Peter Whyman alto/soprano sax (2,6,7)
Barbara Thompson soprano sax (3,8)
Peter King alto sax (5)
Alan Barnes alto sax (5)
Andy Grappy tuba (1,2,8,9)
Laka Daisical piano/keyboards (1,6,9)
Errollyn Wallen piano (4)
John Alley piano (2,7)
Mike Carr hammond organ (5)
Billy Thompson violin (3,8)
Dudley Phillips electric bass (3)
Peter Lemer synthesiser (8)
Jon Hiseman drums (8)
Sebastian Rochford drums (1,6,9)
Nic France drums (3)
Steve Brown drums (5)
Neil Percy percussion (7)
Music originally commissioned by Kate Westbrook in 1994 with funds from the Arts Council of England.
Released on Voiceprint VP310CD.
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 dramtic 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
Cuff Clout on Film
A Bigger Show
Catania - Live in Sicily 1992
in memory of
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