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A quarterly journal with information about all Westbrook projects, tours and recordings. No.90

July 2011

The Mike Westbrook Big Band in ‘full and glorious flight’ - summer gigs on p.6 ________________________________________________________________________________

Travel Light The arrival of a pile of cardboard boxes of memorabilia from the 70s, 80s and 90s - posters, LPs, brochures and photos – unearthed by Laurence Aston in an office clear out, recalls a Golden Age of touring. Destined to swell our already bulging archive at the National Jazz Archive in Loughton, this material is a reminder that, over the years, it is the small groups that have kept our show ‘on the road’. The music, and the personal and musical relationships on which it has always depended, evolved in the course of one-nighters, sea voyages and day–long drives in a minibus crammed with six of us, a driver/tour manager, instruments (including drum kit), luggage for several weeks and a complete PA system. For some musicians, one such trip was enough. Some thought there must be an easier way of earning a living. But for Kate and me, Phil and Chris, and other seasoned troupers, that way of life and music making, despite all its hazards, never lost its allure. The change from minibus tours and one-nighters to one-off events has certainly been in evidence lately. Compositions that we would once have played dozens, if not hundreds of times, sometimes only get one airing. 2011 has seen few performances, but several big projects, each of which has required months of preparation.

In fact THE SERPENT HIT took nearly two years from its first run through to its first performance in April. Likewise FINE ‘N’ YELLOW took a long time to develop from a studio album to a ‘live’ piece. For the performances of GLAD DAY in the middle of May, choir rehearsals began in January. ENGLISH SOUP, premiered by The Village Band in 2008, is currently making the transition from live performance to film and will hopefully be out on DVD by Xmas. The South West Big Band works out regularly and puts in a lot of rehearsal for its occasional outings. th

The re-issue of THE CORTEGE album in its 30 year takes us back to the Brass Band’s European touring, with a vengeance. That piece, and other ‘landmark’ works, like LONDON BRIDGE, were the by-product of a travelling life. Something marvellously creative came out of that shared experience ‘on the road’. Someone once described the Brass Band as ‘A Wandering Everyman Troupe’. That particular wanderlust is something you never lose. Mike Westbrook

Mike Westbrook at 75 Kings Place, London Saturday 2nd April 2011 Kate Westbrook (voice) Andy Tweed (soprano and alto saxophones) Chris Biscoe (alto and soprano saxophones) Karen Street (tenor saxophone, accordion) Chris Caldwell (baritone sax, bass clarinet, soprano sax) Steve Berry (bass) Simon Pearson (drums) Mike Westbrook (piano, musical director) The award-winning new Kings Place building, home to an arts centre, restaurants, bars and offices, provided a suitably impressive setting for th Mike Westbrook’s 75 birthday concert. The first set comprised the first live performance of FINE’N’YELLOW, This suite, recorded for CD in 2009, is dedicated to the memory of John & Margery Styles, founders of Smith’s Academy Informer and friends of Kate, Mike and so many of us who have enjoyed Westbrook music over the years.

sensitive diminuendo that brought this section to its quiet, logical conclusion. The whole suite - in live performance even more than on CD - felt organic, each movement having time to develop and room to rise and fall at its own natural pace. The final part What I Like is a tour de force. Starting with Mike’s ‘Grade 1 Piano’ riff, drums and bass then kick in, building great rhythmic momentum by playing off threes against fours. There are musical quotes (I spotted Perdido, All Blues, So What and Stolen Moments - there may well be more) woven into the structure of the song, which catalogues all the things that Margery and John enjoyed: convivial company, exotic travel, good food and drink, and – of course – jazz. Coltrane, Ellington, Mingus, Monk, Getz and Carla Bley all get name checks in Kate’s lyrics, which wonderfully encapsulate everything that the Styles were, and indeed Smith’s Academy is, all about: Bless us with desires, humour and grace, Love, wisdom and our own rightful place. Bless us with music, bless us with song, A world in harmony And the music goes on and on and on…

Chris Caldwell, Karen Street, Chris Biscoe & Andy Tweed The Piano Player The evening began with Mike’s, sparse-textured but highly expressive blues-inspired solo piano. Starting with the charm and simplicity of a Jimmy Yancey tune Through the Dark gradually opens out into a more elaborate piece that forms the basis for much of FINE’N’YELLOW. Simon Pearson’s propulsive ride cymbal introduces the next appearance of the tune, in Yellow Dog, where it comes in long notes from Karen Street’s accordion, Andy Tweed’s soprano sax, Chris Biscoe’s alto sax and Chris Caldwell’s bass clarinet. Kate’s vocal takes up the theme and describes a journey through the Burmese jungle. A contemplative bass interlude from Steve Berry led into My Lover’s Coat, which in turn segued into My Lover’s Heart. Both pieces reflect Margery’s love of travel and her enduring love for her late husband. Heart ended with Simon Pearson’s drums, but this was not the flashy bombast that often passes for a drum solo but a

The second set premiered a major new Westbrook piece THE SERPENT HIT. Originally commissioned by the Delta Saxophone Quartet as a piece to feature saxophones and Kate’s voice, it was expanded for tonight’s concert with by adding percussion and a coda section. Kate’s text may be a fable but, starting with a small act of violence against innocent pleasure and ending with the destruction of the planet, SERPENT deals with real issues in a vivid and original way. Mike’s music makes full use of the players. The writing for the saxophone quartet (Chris Biscoe, Andy Tweed, Karen Street and Chris Caldwell) displays a precision and expressive power, which the players clearly relish - from stabbing, syncopted accents to gossamer-smooth close harmony passages. Simon Pearson’s drums are an integral voice – no superfluous histrionics here but a powerful driving force, adding a key tone colour and structural element to the work.

And Kate Westbrook’s succinct but telling lyrics, delivered with her usual aplomb, provide the narrative focus and bind the whole thing together. Without doubt, this is a major new piece – Mike recognises it as opening up ‘a whole new era’ in his music. Let’s hope some repeat performances are on the cards in the near future. The concert ended as it began with Mike’s solo piano. He played us out with a blues (‘All I ever really wanted to do’) – gently probing chromatic harmonies and judicious use of space bringing new life to this most traditional of jazz forms. Words: Martin King Photos: Graham Ruff

________________________ Rara Avis MIKE WESTBROOK BIG BAND Exeter Phoenix, 24 March 2011 What a treat to see and hear that now true rarity a real live big band in full and glorious flight. But not just any Big Band, a Mike Westbrook Big Band featuring delicious ingredients from as far afield as Italy, Germany and North America not to mention many tasty home-grown morsels and just a touch of Basie. Exeter’s Vibraphonic Festival at the appropriately named Phoenix was the place for the Band’s reappearance in celebration of Mike’s 75th birthday a few days earlier. The first half included choice Ellingtonia as well as home-grown Westbrook. The second helping started with a Rossini-based piece entitled Funkin’ Cinderella. Then Bebop de Rigueur featuring Roz Harding, Something to Live For (a tour de force for Stan Willis), and Kate Westbrook singing the Siegfried Sassoon’s powerful words to Blighters. Alabama Song added the Teutonic element and followed a great version of Creole Love Call. Neil Hefti’s Li’l Darlin’ featured Mike Brewer taking a fine trumpet solo, The final icing on the cake was Rossini again with Mike’s setting of the Barber of Seville Overture. With cracking ensemble and outstanding solo contributions from Andy Tweed, Karen Street, Lou Gare, Sam Smith, Dave Hankin, Dave Holdsworth, Gary Bayley and others, all driven along by a tight rhythm section, this was a great way to celebrate a special birthday. Many Happy Returns especially if they are Big Band ones.

Radio Celebrations Good to see BBC radio recognising Mike Westbrook’s th 75 birthday with no less than three programmes paying tribute and featuring his music. First there was Radio 3’s In Tune, an early evening mainly classical magazine show which enlivens many st a commuter’s drive home. On March 31 Kate and Mike were the guests of presenter Petroc Trelawny. They took the opportunity to take their new band (Andy Tweed, Chris Biscoe, Karen Street, Chris Caldwell and Simon Pearson) into the BBC studios and give the world its first taste of THE SERPENT HIT, premiering two sections, Throw and Hurl. We were also treated performance of Enfance from THE CORTEGE by the Westbrook Trio (Kate, Mike and Chris Biscoe). This live version made an interesting comparison with the original orchestral setting of Rimbaud’s text, which can be heard on the re-released CD of the complete CORTEGE (Enja ENJ9587-2) It never fails to amaze how this group manages to miniaturise large-scale complex pieces yet retain their essence, and this live interpretation was a case in point. In conversation with Trelawny, Kate and Mike described their creative lives and outlined the background to SERPENT. th

The programme heightened anticipation for Mike’s 75 Birthday Concert, which took place in London two days later, and provided the centrepiece for Radio 3’s th Jazz on 3 broadcast on April 25 . As well as the complete SERPENT performance Jazz on 3 also included a large chunk of FINE’N’YELLOW from the concert (a pity that What I Like – which brought the first set to a celebratory conclusion – was omitted) and an interview with Mike by John Fordham.

Petroc Trelawny Jamie Cullum

Further radio recognition of Mike’s big birthday came th on May 10 when, on his Radio 2 show, Jamie Cullum featured an excerpt from an archive BBC recording of MAMA CHICAGO by the Mike Westbrook Brass Band, first broadcast on Jazz In Britain in December 1978. The Radio 2 context made a change from the more rarefied atmosphere of Radio 3 where Smith’s Academy projects are more usually found. It was great to hear this lively, colourful score again and, before the end of the evening, it had me reaching for the MAMA CHICAGO DVD to soak up some more of this evocatively re-imagined roaring twenties jazz’n’gangster atmosphere.

Graham Ruff Martin King

Hannahs Big Music Project a personal appraisal by Mike Hooton On May 13 and 14 performances were given of GLAD DAY The Choral Version, at an exciting new venue, Hannahs at Seal Hayne, near Newton Abbot in Devon. The Westbrook Ensemble, consisting of Phil Minton, Kate Westbrook (vocals), Karen Street (accordion), Billy Thompson (violin), Steve Berry (bass) and Mike Westbrook (piano) was joined by the community choir, Hannahs Voice, directed by Marion Wood. The William Blake project began in 1971 with the late Adrian Mitchell's National Theatre musical TYGER for which Mike Westbrook wrote the music. Mitchell’s widow, Celia, spoke during the concert and read some of Adrian’s poetry.

In this programme note Mike Hooton, co-ordinator of the event and choir member offers his thoughts on a remarkable collaboration.

Knowing that GLAD DAY was the end point, we have introduced in advance to the community at Hannahs each of the professional musicians who make up the Mike Westbrook Ensemble. This is a rare opportunity in today’s economy-driven arts programming, but it provides an extra dimension to our experience of the concert. Mike and Kate Westbrook have been with us throughout the rehearsal period and have engaged with Marion Wood, the choir director, to adapt and arrange the music for this specific event. In March, the three instrumentalists from the Ensemble – Steve Berry, Karen Street and Billy Thompson - gave a residential weekend of workshops and performances, sharing and teaching their techniques of improvisation in performance. Fifty people attended the weekend, many being music students from Plymouth and Exeter Universities. We know from the feedback that we received that the impact on this next generation of musicians was profound and energising. In April, Phil Minton brought his Feral Choir project to Seale-Hayne for some very different music-making for the voice in all its guises. There were fewer than 20 people for the weekend; I was one of them. We screeched and droned, gargled and yodelled. It was unnerving and perplexing to start, but by the end we were guided to a 50-minute, non-stop, communal performance. We had discovered music in everything and in the air that we breathed. It was transforming and uplifting.

Some of Hannah's Voices photo: Maureen Douglas Green Hannahs Big Music Project was devised to bring musicians of the highest professional standing to Seale-Hayne to work alongside people from the local area and the new community at Hannahs towards a production that would reach beyond the everyday experience of both groups. Tonight’s concert is the culmination of the Project. I hope that what you hear and see on the stage will provoke your mind and lift your heart, for you too are participating in the interaction between artistic endeavour and our ordinary lives. But what you see tonight is only one point in time (albeit an important one) of a project that has been more than nine months in development. On the way, we have formed a new community choir at Seale-Hayne most of whose members have never sung before in public and do not read music.

That has been the point of the project. We have seen it at the residential weekends and during the more prolonged evolution of Hannahs Voice. As with every real endeavour, there have been moments of great difficulty and moments of great joy, and on the way it has touched and challenged us all. Throughout, there has been the music which, like all art, has the capacity to take us outside our ordinary patterns of thought and suggest new possibilities. Sometimes it will lift our perspective and even shift our lives. And the context has been Hannahs at Seale-Hayne – a project which has been created to treat everyone equally, regardless of their background or ability. This idea, which is the foundation stone for Hannahs, has provided the framework for this Project. It has proved a warm and stimulating home from which has developed tonight’s unique production of GLAD DAY – a piece of music on a grand scale which, I hope, will resonate with you as it does with me. Mike Hooton

606 to the Rescue Monday August 1st, 606 Club, London A Benefit for Joan Morrell and the Cambridge Modern Jazz Club featuring Chris Biscoe, Stan Sultzman, Don Weller, Iain Ballamy, Pete Saberton, Gareth Williams, John Donaldson, Mick Hutton, Andy Cleyndert, Dave Barry, Nic France and others and including a short set by The Westbrook Trio – Kate Westbrook, Mike Westbrook, Chris Biscoe Joan Morrell set up the Cambridge Modern Jazz Club in 1972 and has run the organisation voluntarily for the past 39 years. The 606 Club has pledged to help raise funds for the Cambridge Club, as part of their continuing aim to support and promote live music around the UK and Europe. The triple-bill line-up tonight is absolutely amazing, so please do join us to help raise cash for this great cause – help keep live music flourishing during these difficult financial times! _______________________________________

Records for Sale All currently available recordings can be purchased from Westbrook Records. Recent additions to the catalogue include: •

FINE’N’YELLOW, Kate and Mike’s tribute to John and Margery Styles which was so th well received at Mike’s 75 birthday concert. The CD has been awarded the Consigliato di Musica Jazz in Italy.

MAMA CHICAGO, DVD featuring the Brass Band, Westbrook Trio and an interview with Mike and Kate.

All these recordings are available to buy online from Westbrook Records where full ordering information is set out. PayPal payment is acceptable, and it’s not necessary to have an account with them. You can also purchase them via mail order. Please send your order and a cheque payable to "Westbrook" to Westbrook, PO Box 92, Dawlish, EX7 9WN. Prices (which include p/p) are • FINE’N’YELLOW CD £10.00 • THE CORTEGE 2CD £15.00 • MAMA CHICAGO DVD £12.99 Happy listening!

Riding down to Milan on the Platterback Train •

THE CORTEGE, the classic big band epic, winner of the Grand Prix du Disque, Montreux, 1982, now remastered and reissued by ENJA.

Milan’s Ah Um Jazz Festival in May featured arrangements by drummer Ferdinando Ferao of pieces from the Westbrook composition PLATTERBACK, performed by a young big band, The Artchipel Orchestra. Ferdinando recently gained highest honours in his post graduate music degree at Milan UIniversity for his study of PLATTERBACK. Bravo! Bravo! For a short extract from Artchipel’s performance, visit .

Diary THE WESTBROOK TRIO Kate Westbrook, Mike Westbrook, Chris Biscoe A Benefit for Joan Morrell and the Cambridge Modern Jazz Club – for full line-up see 606 to the Rescue (page 5) Monday August 1st 606 Club, 90 Lots Rd, London ____________________________________________ MIKE WESTBROOK BIG BAND Saxophones: Stan Willis, Roz Harding. Gary Bayley, Lou Gare, Sarah Dean Ian Wellens Trumpets: Mike Brewer, Brian Moore, Dave Holdsworth, Sam Massey Trombones: Sam Smith, Bob Cronin, Dave Hankin, Alex Wesson Keyboard: Lewis Riley Bass: Marcus Vergette Drums: Coach York Vocals: Kate Westbrook M.D: Mike Westbrook

Tuesday August 16th St Ives Jazz Club Western Hotel Royal Square St Ives Cornwall doors 8.00pm on stage 9.00pm tickets £10 members £6 tel 01736 798 061 or 01736 796 082 Thursday September 8th TOTNES FESTIVAL Studio 31 at the Hex and Gym Complex Park Road Dartington Totnes TQ9 6EQ doors 7.00pm start 7.30pm tickets on the door £12 ( £10 ) or by mail from Westbrook PO Box 92 Dawlish EX7 9WN cheques payable to Westbrook Band and enclose SAE ___________________________________________


Website News

Thursday August 11th The Carlton Theatre The Den Teignmouth Devon TQ14 8BD 7.30 pm ( doors 7.00 pm ) tickets on the door £12 ( £10 ) or in advance from Carlton Theatre Box Office 01626 778 991 or by post from Teignmouth Jazz 8 Brook Orchard, Kingskerswell, Newton Abbot TQ12 5AX cheques payable to Teignmouth Jazz and enclose SAE presented in association with Friends of Teignmouth Jazz Festival

It has been quite a while since WestbrookJazz had a makeover but we felt it was time to present our wares in what we hope will be an easier to read format. Apart from a different appearance we have a new section where you can read Kate Westbrook’s lyrics. This journal also has a new look on the website courtesy of There are lots of other small changes too. Away from the site, Kate Westbrook now joins Mike Westbrook on Facebook and of course Westbrookjazz is also on Twitter (Links below). Come and have a look at: and tell us what you think of our new look.

Sunday August 14th The Drewe Arms The Square Drewsteignton Devon EX6 6QN after lunch concert 2.00 pm tickets on the door £10 ( £7 ) or by post from Westbrook PO Box 92 Dawlish EX7 9WN cheques payable to Westbrook Band and enclose SAE 01647 281 224

Chris Topley Westbrookjazz on Twitter: Mike Westbrook on Facebook: Kate Westbrook on Facebook:


Smith’s Academy Informer is published quarterly as a free online only version and is also emailed directly to subscribers in Adobe Acrobat PDF format for free. It can also be downloaded in the same format from Contributions are welcome and should be emailed to the Editor, Martin King, email: Westbrook website: email:

SAI 90 - Smith's Academy Informer - July 2011  
SAI 90 - Smith's Academy Informer - July 2011  

A quarterly journal with information about all Westbrook projects, tours and recordings.