Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine a jazz composer who began with Ellington and then moved on through Mingus. He soon encompassed rock music, Kurt Weill, Rossini, the traditions of English church music and the pastoralism of Vaughan Williams and Holst, but still found a place in his music for The Beatles, European political cabaret and The Great American Songbook. And what if his inspirations ranged from painters like Paul Nash, Caspar Wolf and J.M.W. Turner to Lorca, William Blake, Shakespeare, D.H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon and Bertolt Brecht, and his subject matter took in war, life ...read more
At its richest, pianist/composer Mike Westbrook's work is to jazz what grand opera, in the classical world, is to chamber music. The Cortege is Westbrook at his richest, leading a 17-piece orchestra through an ambitious and brilliantly realized suite, loosely themed around the idea of a funeral procession and its after-party. Thirty years after its first release on Original Records, The Cortege remains one of finest achievements of British orchestral jazz, and has been reissued as a two-CD set to celebrate Westbrook's 75th birthday, in 2011. Like grand opera, The Cortege is big but full of detail. ...read more
Whether you believe that opera is the loftiest manifestation of lyric art, or a bastard tradition typified by mannered singing, indifferent acting and an audience that would have Robespierre rubbing his hands in glee, there's no doubt that it has some great tunes. British composer and pianist/tuba player Mike Westbrook gathered a few of them together in the mid 1980s for this Rossini project.
Westbrook-Rossini grew out of a commission Westbrook received from a Swiss street-theatre company in 1984. The brief called for a band which could provide musical interludes for a play about the Swiss national hero, ...read more
Among the most characterful and singular British composer/bandleaders, Mike Westbrook is revered by the relative few who follow his music, but is woefully under-appreciated in the wider jazz world. In part, this is because Westbrook paints on a larger canvas than that used in most conventional" orchestral jazz, frequently taking on projects with textural themes or dramaturgical production values. In part, it's because he is politically engaged and, starting with the early anti-war masterpieces Release (Deram, 1968) and Marching Song (Deram, 1969), has regularly composed works with overt political messages.
Westbrook doesn't quite qualify as Britain's best kept jazz secret--that ...read more