Mike Westbrook

(Website)

Mike Westbrook O.B.E. has led, and composed for, a succession of Big Bands and small groups since the early 1960’s. He has toured extensively throughout Europe and further afield and made 30 albums. His principal compositions for Jazz Orchestra include Citadel/Room 315 featuring John Surman (BMG Records), On Duke’s Birthday dedicated to the memory of Duke Ellington (Hat Art), and Big Band Rossini which was featured in the 1992 Proms.

Works for classical ensembles include a saxophone concerto Bean Rows and Blues Shots (Argo), commissioned by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta for John Harle, and a score for the 1928 silent movie Moulin Rouge commissioned by the Matrix Ensemble. Mike’s television music credits include the award-winning BBC drama Caught On a Train by Stephen Poilakoff starring Peggy Ashcroft, and the TV opera Good Friday 1663 co-written with Kate Westbrook.

His work for the theatre began with Adrian Mitchell’s Tyger a celebration of William Blake, staged by the National Theatre in 1971. His opera Coming Through Slaughter with libretto by Michael Morris 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 their current production Platterback. They have also created large-scale concert works incorporating settings of European poetry notably The Cortege (Enja) and London Bridge Is Broken Down a composition for voice, chamber orchestra and jazz group (Virgin/Venture). Jago, the first full-scale opera which Kate and Mike Westbrook have written together, was performed by Wedmore Opera in 2000. Their latest collaboration, Chanson Irresponsable, an innovative composition for the fifteen-piece New Westbrook Orchestra, has been commissioned by BBC Radio 3.

Mike Westbrook’s current albums for ENJA Records include Bar Utopia a big-band cabaret with lyrics by Helen Simpson, The Orchestra of Smith’s Academy, compositions recorded “live” by the Mike Westbrook Orchestra and the Steve Martland Band, and Glad Day settings of William Blake sung by Phil Minton and Kate Westbrook with the Mike Westbrook Brass Band. His latest release is Platterback with Westbrook & Company, released on the Jazzprint label.

Mike Westbrook – Press Quotes:

“Britain’s most innovative Big Band leader” The Wire

“With this immensely powerful work (London Bridge is Broken Down) Westbrook reinstates his claim to international pre-eminence among the heirs of Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus” The Times

“By the end, Catania (the Mike Westbrook Festival) had massively affirmed Westbrook’s stature as a giant of contemporary music”- The Guardian.

Albums

The Serpent Hit

Label: Westbrook Records
Distribution in France: Socadisc
Release date: January 15, 2014

After the Serpent’s bite there is no turning back. Kate Westbrook’s libretto recounts, with irony, humour and regret, the Fall of Humankind in a world hell–bent on its own destruction. Mike Westbrook’s genre–crossing score combines Kate’s voice with the saxophones of Andy Tweed, Chris Biscoe, Karen Street and Chris Caldwell, and the drums of Simon Pearson, and was produced by Jon Hiseman.

Mike Westbrook - The Serpent Hit

Westbrook Rossini

Label: Hatology
Distribution in France: Harmonia Mundi
Release date: September 29, 2008

Mike Westbrook - Westbrook Rossini

London Bridge is broken down

Label: BGO Records
Release date: January 01, 2008

London Bridge Is Broken Down was commisioned by ‘Le Temps du Jazz’ (Festival International de Jazz d’Amiens) and premiered at La Maison de la Culture, Amiens on 26 May 1987. It was performed again on September 22nd at the MUSICA 87 festival in Strasbourg. The album was recorded for Virgin/Venture, produced by Fiachra Trench, at Studio Pathe Marconi EMI, Paris 7th – 10th December 1987 and released in 1988.

In 1990 the piece was performed with the Docklands Sinfonietta conducted by Rupert Bond, in London on 9th November at St. Anne’s Church, Limehouse in the Docklands Jazz Festival, and in Zurich on 10th November at the Zurich Jazz Festival.

Mike Westbrook - London Bridge is broken down

Mama Chicago

Label: Jazzprint
Distribution in France: Voiceprint/Plastic Head
Release date: July 07, 2007

Mike Westbrook - Mama Chicago

Glad Day

Label: Enja
Distribution in France: Alternative/Sony DADC
Release date: June 07, 1999

Mike Westbrook - Glad Day

Piano

Label: Impetus
Distribution in France: Impetus
Release date: August 01, 1998

Mike Westbrook - Piano

Bar Utopia

Label: ASC
Distribution in France: DI Music; Impetus
Release date: October 01, 1996

Mike Westbrook - Bar Utopia

Pierides

Label: Line
Release date: July 01, 1995

Mike Westbrook - Pierides

Platterback

A bittersweet tale of five travellers en route from Stiltsville to Platterback, this is the most engaging piece of music theatre the Westbrooks have created for years. It is also an intriguing shift in musical language, with accordian and cello (the latter always a Westbrook favourite) taking the place of horns and woodwinds. As before, the piece draws on a whole range of styles, from Ellington-tinged jazz to cabaret song and quasi-serial structures. It evokes a landscape crowded with story and with culteral associations. ...The emphasis is very largely on texts and words; but it is their integration with an often minimalist backing that makes them so powerfully effective”

From the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (5th Ed., 2000)

Mike Westbrook - Platterback