Mike Westbrook Live 1972 captures a fleeting snapshot of the transitional group Westbrook assembled in between hisMetropolis era big band and the jazz rock venture Solid Gold Cadillac featuring Phil Minton's irrepressible vocals. This quintet lasted only a few weeks but the line-up boasted Gary Boyle, guitarist of the legendary band Isotope. Also, George Khan on tenor saxophone and drummer Alan Jackson both stalwarts of Westbrook's previous ensembles were present along with newcomer Roger 'Butch' Potter on bass guitar, who passed away in 2003.
The music looked both back and forward to Westbrook's later band. So for example, selections from Metropolis were performed in a relatively skeletal form but nonetheless effectively so. This is the first British reissue on CD since the only other previous CD version was released in Japan. The original vinyl was released on John Jack's Cadillac label because RCA, to whom Westbrook was signed at the time, were not interested in releasing it. It's a slice of British jazz history that has thankfully been preserved and makes for exciting listening particularly as this release now includes two previously unreleased tracks.
"Travellin'" is an adapted and highly addictive version of "Home" which first appeared on Westbrook's Marching Song, here George Khan's electric saxophone bravely substituting for an entire big band. The first two thirds of "Compassion" comprises a collective improvisation, the final third resolving into a more cohesive, exploratory entity, dominated by Khan's tenor. The outro is a brief flute foray, where a brief melody from "Marching Song" is heard. This Hux reissue now temporarily diverges from the original, as the two previously unissued tracks are included at this juncture. "Marching Song" is initially dominated by Khan's amplified sax and then Boyle's guitar, rich with fleetingly fast runs. The second track new to this album is "Spaces," beginning with Jackson's drum solo and leading into a florid foray with a boppy head and an extended guitar solo from Boyle.
The record's original order ensues with the 12 minute "Down On The Farm" which eventually turns into a heavy wig-out structured over three chords and a satisfying rock ending. "Pleasure City" is actually an extended and electrifyingly version of "Metropolis VIII," with Gary Boyle at his wah-wah rockiest (he even quotes from "Satisfaction"). It also appeared with this new title on the eponymously titled Solid Gold Cadillac. The final number is "Metropolis IX" formerly entitled "Hyde Park Song" on the original release and this sticks fairly faithfully to its previous version with Khan and Jackson here on alto, substituting for the original instrumentation on Metropolis where Harry Beckett had provided an unforgettable emotionally-charged solo over Westbrook's piano.
This long unavailable slice of British jazz history offers an insight into the imaginative and innovating workings of one of the UK's most significant protagonists, and evinces a unique charm of its own with solid gold replay value.
Travellin’; Compassion; Marching Song; Spaces; Down on the Farm; Pleasure City;
Mike Westbrook: electric piano; George Khan: saxophone, flute; Gary Boyle: guitar;
Roger ‘Butch’ Potter: bass, flute; Alan Jackson: drums, alto saxophone.