Composer/bandleader Mike Westbrook and singer/librettist Kate Westbrook first joined forces in the mid-1970's. Touring and performing worldwide, they have generated a huge variety of vocal music, from cabaret songs to opera. They have produced epic concert works, based on settings of European poetry, notably The Cortege and Chanson Irresponsable (both on Enja Records), and their current “jazz/rock oratorio” A Bigger Show ( ASC Records) performed, by their 23-piece Uncommon Orchestra. Their duo album 𝗔𝗹𝗹𝘀𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘀 (ASC Records) combines original songwriting with re-workings of the standard repertoire, including the music of Kurt Weill, Friedrich Hollaender and Cole Porter, and draws on previously unissued performances recorded by Jon Hiseman over two decades.
As anyone who caught their superb September 2008 Vortex performance (part of the ASC piano festival) will already know, a duo gig by Mike and Kate Westbrook is a rare treat, intimate and intensely personal, wide-ranging (taking in material from the theatre and film worlds as well as standards, original songs and settings of European poetry) yet pleasingly informal. Many of the songs they performed on that occasion are collected on this album, which brings together recordings made at Jon Hiseman's Temple Studios between 1991 and the present, only one of which ('Surabaya Johnny') has been issued in its present form before (on Kate's Goodbye Peter Lorre album). The material has been arranged (roughly) thematically, so that Blake's 'London Song' is followed by 'Limehouse Blues' and the Westbrooks' own 'Wasteground and Weeds' (sparked by Sunday walks round their then London base in Bow, before Canary Wharf and associated developments); three Weill songs ('September Song', the aforementioned 'Surabaya Johnny' and the gripping narrative piece 'Pirate Jenny') form a sequence; two expressions of sophisticated world-weariness, Billy Strayhorn's 'Lush Life' and the Leiber/Stoller curiosity 'Is That All There Is?' are programmed together; and Friedrich Hollaender's heart-on-sleeve love songs, 'You Leave Me Breathless' and 'The Moon's Our Home' also come one after the other. For the rest, there are highly affecting versions of two standards/show tunes ('Stormy Weather' and 'You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To'), a rare version of a Theodorakis/Sefaris song, 'On the Beach' and two Westbrook settings (Blake's 'A Poison Tree' and short-story writer Helen Simpson's 'Honest Love'). Such an apparently heterogeneous collection needs confident handling in order for it cohere; Allsorts succeeds courtesy not only of Kate Westbrook's consistently intelligent approach to a lyric (adopting what amounts to a dramatic persona where appropriate, as in 'Limehouse Blues' or the grippingly acerbic 'Pirate Jenny', rendering the straight-from-the-heart sincerity of 'September Song' or 'You'd Be So Nice.' all the more touching), but also of Mike Westbrook's subtle, perfectly judged but robust piano playing. A fine memento not only of a great live act, but also of a wonderfully fruitful, long-lasting collaboration between two highly original artists and a sympathetic and sensitive studio.
Chris Parker VORTEX
Kate Westbrook emotes quite superbly, conjuring up the sense of cabaret from little more than looks, smiles and opera gloves, and a quirky series of deeply expressive personae - A continuously enthralling evening.
Phil Johnson - The Independent
Mike Westbrook is a Master of jazz orchestration. He can suggest a carnival, a ballroom, or greasy back street with a few cunningly placed notes. The full effect is awe inspiring.
Dave Gelly - The Observer
released October 8, 2019
Kate Westbrook voice
Mike Westbrook piano
Recorded between 1991 and 2009 by Jon Hiseman at
Temple Music Studios, Sutton Surrey, UK