Jazz at Progress | Music Is: Chris Biscoe Plays Mike Westbrook | Buy tickets

Friday 10 November 2023 | Progress Theatre, Reading | 7: 30pm | £19.00 (£17.00 concessions, £10 under 16) plus maximum 5% booking fee.

Chris Biscoe saxophones
Kate Williams piano
Mike Outram guitar
Dave Whitford  bass
Eric Ford drums

Music Is: Chris Biscoe Plays Mike Westbrook

The inspiration behind Music Is is a simple one: to celebrate the music of Mike Westbrook, one of the most important composers in jazz with a huge body of work from small band jazz through big bands and beyond, from the unique perspective of saxophonist Chis Biscoe who has worked with Westbrook since 1973.

Chris will be joined by a stellar line-up to take some of Westbrook’s great pieces out of their context and play them with a small jazz group as you might an Ellington, Monk or Gershwin song while always retaining their distinctive character.

The arrangements are simple or created in partnership with 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.

The musicians

Chris Biscoe soprano, alto and baritone sax, alto clarinet, 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.

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, which was staged at Progress in 2020,  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, Theo Travis 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.

Eric Ford spent 4 years in Paris before returning to work in London. He works across a wide spectrum of music with musicians as diverse as Ronnie Laws, Marc Almond, Clare Teal, the London Jazz Orchestra and Jason Rebello. He’s also presented drum clinics in London and Beijing and played with Partikel since 2009.

The songbook includes

Music is: from On Duke’s Birthday is the closing piece from Mike’s celebration of Duke Ellington. Three great musicians and friends from the first performance have died and this is dedicated to Tony Marsh, Danilo Terenzi and Stuart Brooks.

Mama Chicago and Goin to Chicago: from Mama Chicago. I based the Goin’ to Chicago solos on note rows from the theme, rather than a chord sequence.

Aggro-Vancouver-Desperado: from L’ascenseur/The Lift

Returning late from a Dave Frishberg gig showed a different side of Vancouver to its light and airy daytime feel.

View From The Drawbridge: from Citadel/Room 315

The Citadel performance develops through several moods and themes. We use only one theme and perform it with a trio of soprano sax, guitar and bass. For Lois Barry and Bobby Wellins.

July ‘79: from The Cortege was a feature for Chris Hunter and Brian Godding.

Wasteground And Weeds: from Goodbye, Peter Lorre (Kate Westbrook)

Kate’s lyrics tell of strolling through the deserted streets of central and east London before the current stages of redevelopment. A dialogue between sax and drums.

Enfance: from The Cortege is a setting of a poem in French by Paul Eluard and was written for voice and big band. There are several themes and countermelodies, one has been turned into the main theme.

Graffitti: from The Cortege is an exciting big band instrumental adapted for solo outings.

‘Music Is: Chris Biscoe Plays Mike Westbrook’

‘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

You can find out more about Mike Westbrook’s recordings and their availability at www.westbrookjazz.co.uk