When one goes back to the original Westbrook recordings after listening to Music Is, what is very striking is how simple Biscoe keeps his arrangements. He chooses just a theme or two from the dense and complex pieces he is revisiting. Some of the arrangements were created in the studio collaboratively, and two are unaccompanied saxophone tracks. The album begins and ends with the title track Music Is, taken from On Duke’s Birthday, a glorious Westbrook melody played first in its original tempo, and reprised for the final track as an endearing waltz.
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Music Is - Chris Biscoe Plays Mike Westbrook
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CHRIS BISCOE PLAYS MIKE WESTBROOK
MUSIC IS
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REVIEWS
"Chris Biscoe has played in the bands led by the great British composer Mike Westbrook and/or his wife, singer and lyricist Kate Westbrook, every year since 1979 bar one. He is the Westbrooks' first-call saxophonist and clarinetist and the love runs both ways. It also rings out on every track of this beautiful album.
The concept is straightforward. Biscoe has taken seven Westbrook pieces out of their original, mostly big band, contexts and arranged them for a small group, rather as might be done with tunes by Duke Ellington. The source albums are Kate's Goodbye, Peter Lorre (Femme Music, 1991) and Mike's Citadel / Room 315 (Beat Goes On, 1975), Mama Chicago (RCA, 1979), The Cortège (Original, 1982), On Duke's Birthday (HatART, 1985) and L'Ascenseur / The Lift (Jazzprint, 2002).
The eight track album (it is bookended by different arrangements of the title track) is performed by an A-list quintet completed by bassist Dave Whitford, drummer Jon Scott, guitarist Mike Outram and pianist Kate Williams. Biscoe is the chief soloist, followed by Outram. Whitford and Scott do not solo as such, but Biscoe lists them above Outram and Williams on the sleeve with good reason, for they are the unobtrusive glue which binds the album together. Two tracks are Biscoe only: "Aggro-Vancouver-Desperado" features him overdubbing four horns, "Wasteground And Weeds" has him on baritone only.
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
This new release is the first that I have come across devoted entirely to arrangements of the music of English composer and jazz giant Mike Westbrook. And who better for such an endeavour than saxophonist Chris Biscoe, who occupies a unique place in the history of Mike Westbrook’s music. He has played with Mike and his wife Kate every year since 1979 (except for 2020/21). He knows the Westbrook oeuvre inside out, having been part of many of his groups, ranging from trio to jazz orchestra, via a variety of combos: marching bands; jazz cabaret troupes; big bands and chamber ensembles. Clearly Westbrook and Biscoe have a special musical relationship. Back in 1985, Richard Williams wrote in a Westbrook record review for The Times, that Biscoe’s solos “seem to enjoy a particularly intimate relationship with the composer’s inner motives.” I know what he means.

Biscoe has previously successfully explored the music of American jazz greats Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus among others. I have enjoyed these, so was pleased to hear that he would be reimagining Westbrook music too. He explains: “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.”
The quintet here is ideal for the task – they are experienced, versatile and inventive players all. Like Biscoe, they have played across a broad spectrum of jazz and other musical genres.
On piano is Kate Williams, winner of Best Album in the 2020 Parliamentary Jazz Awards, and long-time Biscoe collaborator.  Her contributions are thoughtful and understated. Virtuoso Mike Outram is on guitar. The rhythm section are Jon Scott on drums – who now plays with GoGo Penguin – and Dave Whitford on bass, who has played with so many greats from Bobby Wellins to Bill Frisell. These two are sensitive foils throughout. This is a truly empathetic ensemble .
My favourite is View From The Drawbridge. The quintet had an initial run-through of this beautiful tune – a couple of them had not played it before – which fortunately was recorded.  This is the version that appears here, and it is perfect. 
Wasteground and Weeds is a lovely tune which really should be a jazz standard by now.  I have only heard one other version, by a classical soprano at Trinity Laban – where the Westbrook Collection of music scores is held – it worked well because it’s a great song. Biscoe’s take is a delight – he plays solo baritone, improvising and embellishing, finding new facets in the music while still maintaining the wistful yet joyful mood of the original.
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.  
A special recommendation to buy the physical CD – Biscoe, like Westbrook, is articulate about his art, and also about the life of the touring musician.  The liner notes are informative and amusing and illustrated with a couple of photo portraits and some lovely pictures by Kate Westbrook, a fine painter as well as musician, who always travels with sketchbook and watercolours. 
Jane Mann - London Jazz News

The only criticism you can have of Chris Biscoe's 50-plus years in jazz is why he's recorded so few projects of his own. Instead, he's graced the work of everyone from the Brotherhood of Breath to Ray Russell, and indeed the Orchestre National de Jazz. But it's for the many decades collaborating with Mike Westbrook that his work is most known and has reached the widest, international audience.
So, it's most fitting that 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, not least in Kate Williams' spare but apposite piano.
Being Biscoe, these were never going to be straight ahead re-visits. Take 'Music Is' which is afforded two treatments: the upbeat waltz version perfectly counterpoints the cut, cast as a ballad, which itself reflects the original recording.
Even more gorgeous, if possible, is 'View from the Drawbridge', rich with sweet-­toned soprano and Outram's swells, buoyant above Whitford's deeper than plummet ever sounded bass. And if you're not happy with one Biscoe, he multi­tracks himself into a chorus of saxes (set off by bird song and traffic noise, of course) on 'Aggro­-Vancouver-Desperado'.
Westbrook's work always bears re-visioning, but for this to come from an artist who himself has such feel, insight and joy into the great man's work is a rare treat indeed.
Andy Robson - Jazzwise
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