Fine 'n Yellow

by Kate Westbrook, Mike Westbrook

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Yellow Dog 11:31
A pale yellow pi dog crosses my path. I drink from my water bottle And taste chlorine and rust. Two snake kraits intertwine, Amorous little night snakes, They disappear down in a rat hole. A Dollarbird Roller flies ‘cross my path. I drink from my water bottle And taste sorrow and loss. Jokes. kindness. grief, Until, ice-clad, I stand at my father’s grave. No one will whistle Blaydon Races For a dead Geordie lad. The sun burns the sky, Burns the ground, burns the gulley dry, Burns the tawny dust, Burns rock and low scrub, Burns the wall of bones, Burns my burgeoning surprise, Burns my weeping eyes.
Dollarbird 02:42
I will wear my lover’s coat On all the great land masses and Over all the mighty oceans. I will write ‘Love’ as a girdle round the globe. A is for the Astronaut I love. I will run so fast and fly so swiftly, My lover on cloud nine will read The yellow-light tracery of my body. ‘L’ I will Lip-smudge across America, ‘O’ will Overflow Africa ‘V’ Verily will fit Asia ‘E’ will spread Eagle across Australia And when I get home to Europe I will speak with the blackbird in my hedge, "Did you read what I wrote my love, love, love; Did you spell out ‘Love’ ?"
Come the autumn my fig tree sheds All but one of its large three lobed leaves. There remains one perfect leaf Hanging by a breath of a thread. It is yellow gold. Possessed by the sun, it seems lit from within. Like handmade paper it is veined With a tracery of fine, dark ochre lines. Then It falls, It curls, It blotches, It shrivels, It darkens. It disappears. I will savour many snowfalls and winter days, Remembering the fig leaf that breathed your name, Before tiny fleshy green buds appear again.
I will ride my Lover's heart To greet each day’s new morning, and Across all the falling sun-downs. I will write ‘Love’ as a star-burst through the dark. A is for the Acrobat I love. I will chase the sky and race so swiftly, My lover on the earth will read The yellow light tracery of my body ‘L’ I will lip-smudge across oblivion ‘O’will overleap memory ‘V’ verily will jump right now ‘E’ will spread eagle today and forever. And when l get back to Zero I will speak with the desire in my loins. "Did you see that l wrote my love, love, love; Did you spell out ‘Love’?
What I Like 08:50
I like Guinness, I like stout, Pour me a glass of wine and hear me shout, Which wine? Any wine! Cheers, smiles, mean saxophone about. I like taverns, I like bars, Show me a cosy pub and hear me bark, Which pub? Any pub! Jokes, laughter, a game of darts. Bless us with friendship Bringing heartsease, Warmth and kindness, The gift to please. Bless us with affection To steer life along, Nature’s bounty And a sweet rousing song. I like bossa, I like swing, Dance me a round again and hear me sing Which dance? Any dance! Jumping jive, rock ‘n rolling. I like cherries, I like fries, Give me a plate of food and hear me cry, Which food? Any food! Gravy, pepper, puddings and pies. I like fireflies, I like bears, Take me walk-about and hear me declare, Which walk? Any walk! Mountains, valleys, sea-spray on the air. I like Dizzy, I like ’Trane Play me some Ellington and hear me say Which Ellington? Any Ellington! Mingus, Monk, Getz and Carla Bley I like wood stoves, I like snow, Tuck me in a cabin and hear me explode Which cabin? Any cabin Pine logs, nightfall, a small screen movie show. I like travel, I like risk, Put me on a moving train and hear me dig Which train? Any train! The Sahara, Bootle, Mmbai and Minsk. I like reading, I like words Open me a storybook and hear me purr, Which story ? Any story! Comedy, tragedy, anything absurd. I like amber, I like blonde, Paint me a yellow room and hear me respond, Which yellow? Any yellow! Gold or canary, the sun shines on and on.... Bless us with desires, humour and grace, Love, wisdom, and our own rightful place. Bless us with music, bless us with song, A world in harmony And the music goes on and on and on.....


An album dedicated to the memory of Margery and John Styles commissioned by the Margery Styles Estate which was distributed to friends and family of Margery and John and to subscribers of the Smith's Academy Informer of which John and Margery were the founders.


released October 10, 2019

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

text: Kate Westbrook
music: Mike Westbrook

Kate Westbrook’s lyrics have been enriching partner Mike’s music since the 1970s, most recently with the Art Wolf project, but here I think she has surpassed herself. Fine ‘n Yellow was commissioned by Margery Styles as a memorial for her life and that of her husband John. The couple were close friends of the Westbrooks' and this charming record oozes affection. The closest one can ever feel to another human being lies in the sense of being known completely. It is this very thing that Kate’s lyrics suggest to me here and Mike wraps them in a music that defines companionship. The closing ‘What I like’ leaves me wishing I knew these people, while Mike’s solo blues ‘Through the Dark’ is filled with late night conviviality. The Styles’ devotion to each other is reflected in both ‘My Lover’s Coat’ and the even better ‘My Lover’s Heart’, while the playing from all involved is totally assured. This is the Westbrooks' best release in a while- and that says a lot.
Duncan Heining - Jazzwise - September 2010

The many diverse tones of humanity in Kate Westbrook's powerfully vivid voice, the complex multilayered dimensions of the expressively ambivalent saxophones of Chris Biscoe and Pete Whyman and the throbbing heartbeat of Steve Berry's bass with Jon Hiseman's pulsating drums are long and often-heard companions of Mike Westbrook and his ever-inventive keys.

They sound again all through Fine 'n Yellow, where Kate's lyrics become the true provocateurs of Mike's notes and arrangements.

"I will write love as a girdle round the globe," wrote Kate in My Lover's Coat, as one of a group of songs without music she composed for and dedicated to John and Margery Styles, two late friends who founded the Smith's Academy Informer, a newsletter committed to the Westbrooks' music.

Mike took Kate's words as his musical starting point and allowed "the shape of the texts to determine the musical form rather than coercing the words into existing structures," a sequence he wrote that he found "liberating."

The result is a beautifully honed musical essay which creates a living harmony with the words, most of which speak of love, friendship and union - as Kate sings in What I Like. "Bless us with friendship/Bringing hearts ease/Warmth and kindness/The gift to please."

And the music brings the same sensations, played by six veteran jazz troubadours.

The tension is raised by 34 seconds of Kate singing Billie Holiday's Fine And Mellow and as she passes into Yellow Dog, she tells the harrowing story of Margery's father, who died as a prisoner of war in 1942, working on the Burma railway, as the sun "Burns the ground, burns the gully dry/Burns my burgeoning surprise/Burns my weeping eyes."

Berry's booming bass beneath Hiseman's skittering cymbals preface Kate's words of lives blasted by fascism and war and Biscoe's withering moving alto solo, his pealing notes that follow Kate's lines. "No-one will whisper Blaydon Races" for this Geordie lad, all prefacing his mournful yet life-lived coda on Dollarbird.

My Lover's Coat tells of Margery wearing John's jacket after he died "On all the great land masses and/Over all the mighty oceans."

Berry's sound is huge again - as huge as love itself and the word Margery speaks with the blackbird in her hedge: "Did you read what I wrote my love, love, love? Did you spell out love?"

The passage of time and life itself is the theme of Yellow Fig Leaf as Kate reflects on the last autumnal leaf hanging in the Westbrooks' Devon yard. "Yellow gold, it seems lit from within" and it breathes her friend's name. Berry's bass and Hiseman's drums dance inside Kate's beautifully sung words.

Biscoe's soprano horn and Whyman's bass clarinet find unity and harmony within the promises of "fleshly green buds" given new life.

A rare piano feature from Westbrook himself is the body and soul of Through The Dark, each note dropping on the ears like water, yet full of depth and experience of a jazz lifetime. It precedes the Creole echoes of Whyman's pure clarinet on Yellow Tracery which takes jazz back to its Crescent City beginnings before it swings onwards to My Lover's Heart, where Kate digs low in her notes as she "writes 'love' as a star burst through the dark" and her own dark timbre contrasts so starkly with the startling clarity of Whyman's revelatory clarinet.

The track vibrates with subterranean fire as Berry's everlasting bass beats its enormous sound.

The final song What I Like is a praise song to pleasure and to all its humane dimensions, to "desires, humour and grace" to love and wisdom all in harmony.

"Bless us with song" sings Kate with the saxophones of Whyman and Briscoe whirling around her in a "yellow room of life's enjoyment.

She invokes "comedy, tragedy, anything absurd," a world and its achievements to learn and to savour, sung and played with verve and a storm of creativity and energy by six life-filled musicians.

This is an album that makes you proud of life, pleased to be human, played by jazz musicians whose endless music has made them into griots of sound, melody and improvisation.

And a word for the Westbrooks in particular for Kate's lucidity of voice and message, always wrapped in reality, always positive and Mike taking his cues from her words, making notes of meaning, warning and celebration and so often reaching and staying with beauty.

One day this country will realise their greatness.
Chris Searle - Morning Star - April 2012


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Mike Westbrook London, UK

Mike Westbrook, composer and pianist, has received many honours and his outpouring of work in a career stretching over 50 years, ranges from scores for full orchestra to solo piano improvisation.

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