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The Nijinska Chamber

Artist: Kate Westbrook

Date of Release: 29/05/2006

Catalogue no: 893

Label: Voiceprint

Price: £10

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Track Listing

No

 

Title

Duration

1

 

Love

2

 

Song of St. Petersburg

3

 

Borshchok

4

 

Kiev Girl

5

 

Allegra's Song

6

listen

Red

7

 

Sergei

8

 

Diaghilev Song

9

 

Cute Costumes

10

 

Limerick For Igor

11

 

Shame!

12

listen

Faites Vos Jeux

13

listen

Song For Bakst

14

 

Song of Arthritis

15

 

Goody Two Shoes

16

 

Dancing Tonight

17

 

My Birthday

18

listen

Baseball!

19

 

Song of Los Angeles

 

 

 

 

Appearances by

Karen Street

Written by Kate Westbrook with a score by Mike Westbrook, The Nijinska Chamber celebrates the life of Choreographer and dancer Bronislava Nijinska.

Produced by Jon Hiseman
Recorded with financial assistance from Airshaft Trust
with additional support from Jerwood Space.
Voiceprint VP 383CD

 

Reviews

 

01/09/2006 Duncan Heining - Jazzwise

This is one of a handful of excellent recent vocal albums that genuinely push the envelope in terms of what's possible for jazz. Jeanette Lambert and Susanne Abbuehl have done it with poetry and contemplation, while Norma Winstone takes off with carefully chosen material in a powerful big band setting. By contrast Kate and Mike Westbrook use just Karen Street's accordion and dramatic narrative.

The story of Russian prima ballerina and choreographer Nijinska is the stuff of high drama peppered with its guest appearances from Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Picasso and actor Mickey Rooney. Kate tells the story in snatches from and glimpses into a life lived boldly. The Westbrooks' efforts to establish a jazz-based musical theatre is sadly underrated here and this is a triumph. Mike's music, played with real joy by Karen Street, is beautifully expression laden and rich in sentiment. While Kate's vision of the dancer and her world succeeds in conveying the sexual, emotional and political ambiguities of the demimonde Nijinska inhabited with rare understanding and empathy. A case of artist to artist, I guess. Definately Kate Westbrook's best work to date.

 

01/07/2006 Philip Clark - The Wire

Bronislava Nijinska joined Sergei Diaghilev's pioneering Ballets Russes troupe in the early years of the 20th century and later became an innovative choreographer in her own right. During her lifetime she was overshadowed by her brother Vaslav Nijinsky. British lyricist and vocalist Kate Westbrook has built a picturesque theatre piece around Nijinska's later years as she looks back over her career and life.

Mike Westbrook's music restricts itself to solo accordion, overcoming the constraint with a palette of textures and harmonies which deftly evokes a long gone post-Rite Of Spring soundworld. The range of Kate Westbrook's vocalisations encompasses intimate soliloquies and scenes on a cinematic scale, while accordionist Karen Street sustains 60 minutes of energetic invention. A unique project.

 

15/05/2006 Chris Parker - The Vortex Website

Kate Westbrook’s previous recorded projects, Good-bye Peter Lorre (Femme, 1991) and Cuff Clout: A Neoteric Music Hall (Voiceprint, 2001), have both exploited one of the most distinctive and affecting voices in the music to powerfully dramatic, if basically heterogeneous effect; on this latest album (significantly labelled on its front cover ‘KW in The Nijinska Chamber’), she has created an entirely homogeneous presentation, via nineteen short songs interspersed with spoken commentary, dealing with various incidents from and matters pertaining to the life of choreographer Bronislava Nijinska. Early life in St Petersburg, first love, dance classes, the status of her celebrated brother and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, her 1921 escape to Vienna to join Nijinsky (by this time in an asylum), her unhappy devotion to Chaliapin, her final years in America (from where she reminisces, forming the narrative spine of the piece) are all touched on via songs of great tenderness and sensitivity, delivered from a variety of perspectives that perfectly utilise Kate Westbrook’s extraordinary vocal versatility and flair for the theatrical.

The music, written by Mike Westbrook, is appropriately striking, consistently emotional and touching without ever veering into sentimentality, and in accordionist and occasional fellow singer Karen Street (the sole accompanist throughout), the music has found a superb interpreter, the varied textures and tones of her instrument perfectly capturing the subtlest shades of emotion expressed in the songs, from the tenderness of first love to the simple enjoyment of a milk shake. Although clearly designed as a stage presentation, where its humour, pace, variety and intimacy would come into their own, The Nijinska Chamber works well as an album, and provides yet more evidence, were it needed, of Kate Westbrook’s importance as an artist, unaffectedly weaving into her music, as she so often does, elements from the visual, dramatic and performance arts in a way unique to her.

 

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