Chris Biscoe – soprano, alto and baritone sax, alto clarinet
Mike Outram – guitar
Kate Williams – piano
Dave Whitford – bass
Jon Scott – drums
Mike Westbrook is one of the most important composers in jazz with a huge body of work from small band jazz through big bands, cabaret, fusion, chamber works, opera, settings of poetry, creative re-workings of Rossini and The Beatles’ Abbey Road, while always retaining his unique character.
Chris Biscoe has worked with Mike and Kate Westbrook since 1979, from Mama Chicago and The Cortege through On Duke’s Birthday, London Bridge is Broken Down, Bar Utopia, Art Wolf and many other shows. Their closest and most enduring collaboration is The Trio, which has toured extensively and produced four records.
The idea behind Music Is is a simple one: take some of these great pieces out of their context and play them with a small jazz group as you might an Ellington, Monk or Gershwin song.
Arrangements are simple, or even created in the studio in partnership with input from the members of the quintet. The title track, Music Is, appears twice, in its original ballad tempo, and in a spontaneous trio recasting as a medium tempo waltz. There are also two unaccompanied sax tracks, one of them a multitrack improvisation for alto sax, alto clarinets and field recording of street sounds.
Kate Williams solos with a rare economy, combined with great rhythmic drive and invention. She plays in Chris Biscoe’s ‘Profiles of Mingus’ and has released eight records of her compositions. Finding Home was the Parliamentary Jazz Awards winner for Best Album in 2020.
Mike Outram is a prodigious guitarist, whether playing jazz, blues or fusion music, and a long-term member of the Tony Woods Project. Credits include Tim Garland, Robert Fripp, Jacqui Dankworth, Julian Siegel and Laura Rossi.
Dave Whitford’s unique sound is characterised by great depth and drive. He was a member of the fabulous Bobby Wellins Quartet with Liam Noble and Dave Wickins, and recorded Brubeck with the Liam Noble Trio. Credits include The Christine Tobin Band, Josephine Davies Satori, Hans Koller Ensemble, and Bill Frisell, Steve Lacy and John Taylor.
Jon Scott is a wonderfully flexible and varied drummer, first heard with Kairos 4Tet, now with GoGo Penguin and Mulatu Astatke. Other credits include the Pete Hurt Jazz Orchestra, Jasper Holby, Alice Zawadski, Alexander Hawkins and Dwight Trible.
Quotes on the album Music Is: Chris Biscoe Plays Mike Westbrook
Everything about ‘Music Is: Chris Biscoe Plays Mike Westbrook’ is near perfect: the simplicity of the concept, the choice of material, the uncluttered nature of the arrangements, the quality of the performances, the clarity of the recording. A little gem. Chris May, All About Jazz ****
I love this album. It is a pleasure to hear these great Westbrook tunes being treated by Biscoe as the standards they deserve to be. Jane Mann, London Jazz News
this new recording finds multi-reedist Biscoe interpreting some of Westbrook’s best songs alongside a stellar band who have a strong feel for the composer’s work Andy Robson, Jazzwise ****
Quote from a performance
The opening tune, Music Is (from ON DUKE’S BIRTHDAY) featured a thoughtful and imaginative drum solo from Jon Scott. – that’s right, a drum solo on the opening number! Kate Williams improvised an elaborate, sparkling prelude to L’Enfance. But when the whole band played, driven by the tight, crisp, powerhouse bass and drums team of Dave Whitford and Jon Scott, they really generated some heat, such as in Goin’ to Chicago (MAMA CHICAGO), or the conclusion of July ’79 (THE CORTÈGE) where Mike Outram blew the roof off
Martin King at Jazz Cafe Posk, London Westbrook Jazz Notice Board