Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

WESTBROOK, Mike

(b 21 March '36, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK) Bandleader, composer, arranger; plays piano, tuba. Mainly self-taught, he heard jazz records at school, was infl. by Ellington, Monk, Mingus and determined to become a composer. He has combined poetry, theatre etc with jazz inspiration in large-scale works. Formed jazz workshop at Plymouth Art Centre '60; his octet incl. John Surman, who became world-famous playing with Westbrook's Concert Band (formed '66), won Best Soloist award at Montreux '69. Westbrook co-led a multimedia group Cosmic Circus '70--72, formed rock- oriented Solid Gold Cadillac '71--4, Brass Band '73 for cabaret on TV and in theatre. Vocalist Kate Westbrook (b '39, Guildford, Surrey) joined Brass Band '74; plays tenor horn, other instruments; she adapts and sings texts in several languages. He formed the Mike Westbrook Orchestra '79, she joined '81; they formed trio '82 (album A Little Westbrook Music '83 on Westbrook) with Chris Biscoe on reeds (b 5 Feb. '47, East Barnet, Herts); formed Westbrook Theatre Music '84. Their various projects have involved from ten to upwards of more than 26 pieces; three-disc The CortÅ ge '82 on Original won Montreux Grand Prix du Disque '82 with texts adapted by Kate from Hesse, Lorca, Rimbaud, Blake etc. Other albums: Celebration '67, Release '68, Marching Song '69, all on Deram (latter incl. writing and arranging by Surman); Metropolis '71 and Citadel/Room 315 '75 on RCA; Mama Chicago '79 on Teldec/RCA; solo Mike Westbrook Piano '78 and The Westbrook Blake '80 on Original (the former reissued '96 on Impetus); two-disc The Paris Album '81 on Polydor (settings of Brecht/Weill, Blake etc); On Duke's Birthday '85 on hat Art; Pier Rides '86 with Kate speaking (using Pierides, Greek for muses, as the title of a set of chamber music dances, punning on the British expression 'end-of-pier turns'); two-disc Westbrook Rossini '87 on hat Art uses the concert band incl. two tubas and sopranino sax to play the William Tell Overture, etc. Coming Through Slaughter, an opera based on the life of Buddy Bolden, was conducted by Odaline de la Martinez (with the National Orchestra of Cuba), who planned to tour with it '94. Of new CDs in the '90s on ASC, Stage Set was a recital by Kate, accompanied by Mike's piano; Michael Rosenstein in Cadence asked, 'Who else but these two can mix settings for Brecht/Weill, Ellington, Rossini, Bessie Smith, William Blake, Billie Holiday and Paul Eluard on one recording and make it sound unforced, and natural?' Bar Utopia '96 had the big band weaving many styles ('elements of Ellington, Monty Python and Broadway musicals', according to Jon Morgan in Cadence), Kate singing lyrics commissioned from Helen Simpson by the 1995 Bath International Festival. Mike and the Brass Band, vocalists Kate and Phil Minton performed the settings of Blake at the Salisbury Festival '97, the music as eclectic yet passionate and committed as ever. Love Or Infatuation: The Hollywood Songs Of Friedrich Hollaender '97 (see Marlene Dietrich's entry) had just the duo again, Kate a singing actress.