All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

311

Mike Westbrook Orchestra: On Duke's Birthday

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
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 honor falls to Tony Haynes and his Grand Union Orchestra, whose sui generis big band music also presses too many cross-artform buttons to be easily embraced by jazz critics, the music business or the wider media—but his and Haynes' situations are analogous.

On Duke's Birthday, a 1984 concert recording originally released on HatART as a double-LP in 1985, is one of Westbrook's most straight-ahead, "pure music" albums. 1984 was the tenth anniversary of Duke Ellington's passing, and Westbrook was commissioned by the Temps Du Jazz festival in Amiens, France to compose a work to mark the occasion. While there are Ellingtonian echoes—signature Ellington soloists trumpeter Cootie Williams, trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton and baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, for example, are occasionally evoked—there are probably no more than can be heard in most post-Ellington large group jazz. The album is no pastiche or revival—it is instead an exposition of Westbrook's own sumptuous and detailed writing and his genius, shared with Ellington, for hard-wiring soloists into the bigger picture.

The five individual pieces making up the suite typically start with simple, three or four note motifs, which are developed and reconstructed by a constantly evolving succession of orchestral voicings, rhythm shifts and solo passages, the latter written into the arrangements by Westbrook rather than left open-ended. Dominique Pifarely (violin), Georgie Born (cello), Chris Biscoe (saxophones), Danilo Terenzi (trombone) and Brian Godding (guitar) are amongst those shining memorably.

There are wistful moments, like those beginning "On Duke's Birthday 1" and "2," but the abiding mood is one of joy and celebration—reaching its peak during the second half of the 21-minute "East Stratford Too-Doo" (the punning title presumably giving a nod to the radical, long-surviving Theatre Royal in London's deprived Stratford East neighborhood), and its exuberant solo passages for Pifarely, Biscoe (on alto saxophone) and Terenzi.

An enduring album of idiosyncratically conceived and brilliantly realized orchestral jazz.


Track Listing: Checking In At Hotel Le Prieure; On Duke's Birthday 1; East Stratford Too-Doo; On Duke's Birthday 2; Music Is....

Personnel: Mike Westbrook: piano; Dominique Pifarely: violin; Georgie Born: cello; Brian Godding: electric guitar; Chris Biscoe: alto, soprano and baritone saxophones, piccolo, alto clarinet; Danilo Terenzi: trombone; Kate Westbrook: tenor horn, piccolo, bamboo flute, voice; Phil Minton: trumpet, voice; Stuart Brooks: trumpet, voice; Steve Cook: bass guitar; Tony Marsh: drums.

Title: On Duke's Birthday | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Hat Hut Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Best of / Year End
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
The Last Night At The Old Place

The Last Night At The...

Cadillac Records
2018

buy
Live 1972

Live 1972

Hux Records
2017

buy
Paris

Paris

ASC Records
2016

buy
The Cortege

The Cortege

Enja Records
2011

buy
Mama Chicago - A Jazz Cabaret

Mama Chicago - A Jazz...

Gonzo Multimedia
2010

buy

Related Articles

Read Fat Daddy CD/LP/Track Review
Fat Daddy
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Short Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Short Stories
by Gareth Thompson
Published: September 19, 2018
Read UHHM CD/LP/Track Review
UHHM
by John Bricker
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Decoy CD/LP/Track Review
Decoy
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller CD/LP/Track Review
Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 18, 2018
Read "The Heart Of Infinite Change" CD/LP/Track Review The Heart Of Infinite Change
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 28, 2017
Read "Heptagon" CD/LP/Track Review Heptagon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 23, 2017
Read "Night Concert" CD/LP/Track Review Night Concert
by Chris Mosey
Published: July 18, 2018
Read "The Sound Of The Earth" CD/LP/Track Review The Sound Of The Earth
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 5, 2018
Read "Travelers" CD/LP/Track Review Travelers
by John Kelman
Published: May 18, 2018
Read "Dirt...And More Dirt" CD/LP/Track Review Dirt...And More Dirt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 22, 2018