Mike Westbrook was perhaps the most influential of the band leaders of British
jazz fusion. His Concert Band
Westbrook on piano,
John Surman on baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet
two altoists, one tenorist, French Horn, trombone, valve trombone, trumpet, tuba, bass, drums,
and debuted with Celebration (august 1967),
co-composed by Mike Westbrook
(particularly the eight-minute Echoes And Heroics and the seven-minute Portrait) and John Surman.
After the inferior Release (august 1968), a larger band (still featuring
Surman) performed the pacifist concept of the double-LP Marching Song (april 1969), entirely composed by Westbrook and
inspired by Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra.
A smaller band with Chris Spedding on guitar and Paul Rutherford on trombone,
besides Surman, recorded Love Songs (april 1970).
The zenith of Westbrook's dense and smooth arrangements was the nine-movement symphony Metropolis (august 1971), recorded by a 24-piece band
(without Surman but with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler), followed by the
eleven-part suite Citadel/ Room 315 (march 1975), with Surman back in
Solid Gold Cadillac (1972) and Brain Damage (march 1973) were recorded by Solid Gold Cadillac, a "rock" group featuring trumpeter Phil Minton, trombonist Malcolm Griffiths, saxophonist George Khan, guitarist Brian Godding, bassist Butch Potter and drummer Alan Jackson.
Minton also featured on the Brass Band's Plays For The Record (october 1975), with trombonist Paul Rutherford, saxophonist Dave Chambers and vocalist Kate Barnard. The Brass Band was the outlet for Westbrook's
fascination with popular songs and theater music.
An 18-piece orchestra (including Rutherford, pianist Dave McRae, guitarist Brian Godding) was employed for Love/Dream and Variations (february 1976).
Later, Westbrook seemed to abandon his ambitious fusion-jazz aesthetic and
turned to the more popular formats heralded by
Mama Chicago (june 1979), a "jazz cabaret" originally scored in 1976 for a musical about mafia boss Al Capone,
and The Cortege (composed in 1979, recorded in april 1982) for voices and 16-piece jazz orchestra.
Westbrook also recorded the solo Piano (november 1977).
On the lightweight front, Westbrook's Brass Band recorded:
For The Record (october 1975), Goose Sauce (january 1978),
the live Paris Album (1981)
the above mentioned Mama Chicago (june 1979),
The Westbrook Blake (january 1980), that sets poems of William Blake to music
and was originally conceived in 1971.
Duke's Birthday (may 1984) was a tribute to Duke Ellington but the
music was all original.
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