Born in High Wycombe in 1936, Mike Westbrook grew up in Torquay and was educated at Kelly College, Tavistock. He formed his first band while studying painting in Plymouth in 1958, moving to London in the early 1960s. He has led and composed for a succession of groups, notably his 1960s Sextet and Concert Band, his Brass Band, formed in the mid 70s, the jazz rock group Solid Gold Cadillac and the Mike Westbrook Orchestra. He has toured extensively throughout Europe, and as far afield as Australia and the Far East, Canada and New York. He has directed performances of his work with big bands in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland and Australia. He has broadcast on radio and TV in many countries, and made over 50 albums.
Mike Westbrook first made his mark as a composer with his 1960s recordings for Deram, - Celebration, Release and Marching Song, followed by Metropolis for RCA. Subsequent compositions for Jazz Orchestra include Citadel/Room 315 featuring John Surman, The Cortege, On Duke's Birthday dedicated to the memory of Duke Ellington, Big Band Rossini which was featured in the 1992 BBC Proms and Chanson Irresponsable, (Enja Records) commissioned by BBC Radio 3, which brings together jazz and classical musicians.
Works for classical ensembles include a saxophone concerto Bean Rows and Blues Shots which was commissioned by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta for John Harle, a score for the silent movie Moulin Rouge commissioned by the Matrix Ensemble, and Classical Blues in 2002 for the BBC Concert Orchestra. Mike's television music credits include the award-winning BBC drama Caught on a Train by Stephen Poliakoff and directed by Peter Duffell starring Peggy Ashcroft and Michael Kitchen.
His involvement in experimental theatre began in the late 60s with the multi-media work Earthrise, andcollaborations with The Welfare State Theatre Company and The Cosmic Circus. His work for the stage includes Adrian Mitchell's Tyger a celebration of William Blake, staged by the National Theatre in 1971, and Mitchell’s White Suit Blues about Mark Twain. His opera Quichotte commissioned by L’Ensemble Justiniana, toured in France in the 1980s. Coming Through Slaughter, based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje about the New Orleans cornettist Buddy Bolden, was premiered in London in a concert version in 1994.
In collaboration with his wife, singer/librettist Kate Westbrook, he has generated a whole series of jazz/cabarets and music-theatre pieces, notably The Ass, based on the poem by D.H Lawrence, Pierides commissioned by Extemporary Dance Theatre and Good Friday 1663, a TV opera commissioned by Channel Four with libretto by Helen Simpson. Their 2003 composition Art Wolf commissioned by the Aargauer Kunsthaus, Switzerland, is dedicated to the 18th century Alpine painter Caspar Wolf.