COMPOSERS: John Winfield,Kate Westbrook
ALBUM TITLE: Westbrook and Company
PERFORMER: Kate Westbrook, John Winfield (v), Karen Street (acc, v), Stanley Adler (vc, v), Mike Westbrook (p, tuba, v)
CATALOGUE NO: JPVP 117 CD
For over two decades now, Mike and Kate Westbrook have been creating wholly original jazz-based works using elements from a large range of other art forms, opera, cabaret, literature (especially European poetry) and music-hall prominent among them.
Platterback focuses on a journey from the country (Stiltsville) to the city (Platterback) involving two central characters, an urbanite cook (Kate Westbrook) and a bucolic conscript soldier (John Winfield), plus a punk bookworm (Karen Street), a cardsharp (Stanley Adler) and a poet (Mike Westbrook).
On the way, courtesy of some of the most immediately accessible and affecting music Mike Westbrook has ever written, and of the intelligence and lucidity of Kate Westbrook’s intensely felt but pleasingly informal lyrics, themes including the conflicts between love and duty, city and country lifestyles, and naivety and cynicism are vividly dramatised. Winfield’s love-struck, nostalgia-soaked soldier and Kate Westbrook’s wise, ebullient but tender-hearted cook explore and debate the issues in song.
Meanwhile Adler’s cello (which is as at home with the blues of his native Chicago as with his instrument’s more conventional repertoire) and Street’s accordion (conjuring up nuevo tango and chanson as well as the English folk tradition) provide telling musical commentary over Mike Westbrook’s subtle but powerful piano.
Working as it does on many levels, and with a narrative pull more usually encountered in short fiction, Platterback is at once a satisfying drama and an intense and compact musical whole, and – like all Westbrook works – is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. Chris Parker