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Thread: Mike Westbrook

  1. #1

    Mike Westbrook

    A long time I wanted to get to know better the Mike Westbrook discography. I was lucky and found a couple of CDs in the public Library.
    I knew already Love Songs which I quite liked but nothing more.
    I continued with Citadel/ Room105, jazz rock oriented with interesting soloists like Surman and Godding , but again nothing special.
    I heard then two vocal based records which I appreciate a lot :
    Blake , dedicated to the poetry of William Blake with vocals by Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton and great arrangements by Mike Westbrook,a mix of Anglican church music,baroque counterpoint and jazz.

    Le Cortège, (2 CDs ) this is even better, mainly because it's as good as the Blake one with twice as much material. A very informative booklett where MW explains the Genesis of the project with extensive liner notes to every track. The main theme being a funeral dirge with poetry linked more or less closely to this theme and a musical theme that Westbrook illustrates in detail with chord diagrams. Among the soloists Lindsay Cooper with a great Bassoon WhaWha solo. Has become immediately one of my favourite records.
    I have still some of the Trio records with Chris Biscoe waiting, but I am curious to have hints for further listening.

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    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    Listening to some of Le Cortege on YouTube. Sounds good! I like the slow, contemplative pieces. The only CD I own is Citadel/Room 315. I haven't listened to it in quite a while, but I recall the pieces being vamp oriented for the most part. There is quite a variety of soloists including woodwinds, trumpet, guitar, etc.

  3. #3
    Member helicase's Avatar
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    Yeah, Le Cortège is great. I'd recommend you try Metropolis next:

    And then there's Love Songs (not as saccharine as the title might suggest):

    And Marching Songs Vol.1&2 (recently reissued, on Cherry Red I believe, with a third bonus disc):

  4. #4
    I only know his project Platterback, and his work with Henry Cow. Of course (the latter). He was one of those "big badasses" they managed to acquaint with, like Phil Minton and Irene Schweizer.

    I always wondered what folks like Keith Tippett, David Bedford and Westbrook "got out" of working with 'uncrompromising' progressive rock groups. Not money or much prestige in their own quarters, I presume. But then again there's written plentyful about what it actually cost for talents like Dave Swarbrick and John Renbourne to turn electric and "commercial" and go with legendary bands.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

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    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    I only know his project Platterback, and his work with Henry Cow. Of course (the latter). He was one of those "big badasses" they managed to acquaint with, like Phil Minton and Irene Schweizer.

    I always wondered what folks like Keith Tippett, David Bedford and Westbrook "got out" of working with 'uncrompromising' progressive rock groups.
    I think they genuinely liked what the rock guys had to offer.
    Steve F.

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    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

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    Good to hear that people are interested in Mr. Westbrook.

    His story is interesting because it has some similarity to that of many in the early wave of British rock musicians: He began by going to art school but then got more interested in music - specifically, American music - than painting. So he taught himself to play and embarked upon a musical career. But the important difference between him and the rock crowd was that he's about five-to-ten years older, so all this occurred five-to-ten years earlier, and that American music he got interested in was jazz, not rock. And while he's a decent piano player, he rarely solos and usually takes an ensemble role in his bands; his greatest strengths are as a composer, a conceptualist, and a bandleader. He was active in London at the same time as the first wave of proggers, and I get the impression that he may have played some of the same venues, known some of them socially, and been regarded as a sort of musical older brother. And indeed some of his work - particularly The Cortege - can seem like a sort of super-Canterbury prog: Hugely expanded, wildly ambitious songs with jazz, rock, and classical elements all mixed together, a large band with brass and reeds instead of electronic keyboards, more chops on both the writing and playing ends (though not always more inspiration), and a certain intellectual Britishness.

    As for a purchase, I'd recommend London Bridge is Broken Down - another song cycle like The Cortege, but scored for a medium-sized jazz band, a chamber orchestra, and Kate Westbrook's voice. It's similar to the earlier album, but darker, more composition-heavy, and more harmonically advanced. Very good stuff.
    Last edited by Baribrotzer; 01-21-2018 at 12:21 PM.

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    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=helicase;771610]
    And Marching Songs Vol.1&2 (recently reissued, on Cherry Red I believe, with a third bonus disc):


    Yeah, i highly recommend this.Lots of good stuff here.I got mine from kindly old Uncle Steve/Wayside.



    Lou Gare(saxophone) Keith Rowe(guitar) and Lawrence Sheaff(bass) were members of Westbrook's early bands.Each quit the band due to dissatisfaction with the music.They realized that this sort of big band creative jazz wasn't for them.Along with drummer Eddie Prevost and Cornelius Cardew, they formed the free improvising collective AMM.
    Last edited by walt; 01-20-2018 at 08:50 AM.
    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

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    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helicase View Post
    And Marching Songs Vol.1&2 (recently reissued, on Cherry Red I believe, with a third bonus disc):
    The bonus disc is pretty amazing if you're a fan of 'old place' era Brit-jazz
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  9. #9
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    I'm a big fan of Metropolis, Citadel and Love Songs.

    I used to own London Bridge is Broken Down but eventually sold it to a friend. It's a good album but at times too cerebral to me (and long!).

    Many people have already recommended The Cortege, but if it goes too much in the vein of London Bridge, maybe I'm out. It's not what I've been listening lately.

    The Marching Bands sound nice!

    What about Solid Gold Cadillac? Is it any good?

  10. #10
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conti View Post
    What about Solid Gold Cadillac? Is it any good?
    Kind of a weird rock album. Not a jazz / rock album, like, say Metropolis, but a rock album.

    Not a huge fan.
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    I think they genuinely liked what the rock guys had to offer.
    Yes, I believe so. Tippett, for instance, influenced the directions on Lizard and Islands quite substantially. As did Muir on Larks'.

    Schweizer's piano solo on that track on side 2 of Western Culture is -wild-. I don't think I heard anything like it until that amazing input of Marilyn Crispell's on the first Time of Orchids album.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    I think they genuinely liked what the rock guys had to offer.
    And listen to the difference between 1975's Citadel/Room315 and 1979's The Cortege: The first is mostly blowing vamps with large, blocky backgrounds between and under the soloists. The second is elaborately composed and orchestrated songs, with plenty of jazz elements but just as much Canterbury/avant in them. Now that particular shift in direction may be just a coincidence, something Westbrook went through on his own without external influences, or at least without those specific external influences. But might it not be equally likely that he heard something in Henry Cow et al worth emulating?
    Last edited by Baribrotzer; 01-20-2018 at 12:36 PM.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    Kind of a weird rock album. Not a jazz / rock album, like, say Metropolis, but a rock album.

    Not a huge fan.
    The S/T album w/ Spedding on guitar maybe has less to offer to rabid fans of brain melting jazz rock than their Brain Damage album w/ Brian Godding on guitar. It’s probably fair to say it’s a pretty uneven record but Elephant’s Tales and Mermaid Song are unique and as narcotic as anything I’ve been able to find,(imo, these tracks are highlights of any of the players recorded output).

  14. #14
    Has anyone listened to his Rossini adaptions ? This seemed important to Westbrook.
    Dieter Moebius : "Art people like things they don’t understand!"

  15. #15
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Westbrook made a bunch of good records in the 70's, but there was always a dud/clunker or two in them

    My faves are Metropolis and Citadel

    The Cortege is awesome... Glad he hit "big time" (for a jazz record sales) with that double album


    never heard SGC, but will investigate (what a freakin' aline-up)
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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  17. #17
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    btw and apropos of nothing, when I met Henry Cow in 1977, Chris & Maggie took me to see the Westbrook Brass Band, who were playing a shopping center opening (!!) and they were really great and it was my first sighting of Phil Minton and my only sighting of Paul Rutherford.

    I saw Minton earlier this year and told him I had seen him with the Westies at a shopping center opening over 40 years ago and he looked totally astonished!
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

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    A name I've seen forever but never delved into, so thanks for the tips on where to start. Any similar tips regarding Irene Schweizer's discography?

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    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    A name I've seen forever but never delved into, so thanks for the tips on where to start. Any similar tips regarding Irene Schweizer's discography?
    I'm not a fan. I've seen her perform and I've heard albums; I find her overly difficult and thorny. YMMV.
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  20. #20
    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buddhabreath View Post
    . Any similar tips regarding Irene Schweizer's discography?
    I had a few of her albums over the years.The only one i still have and dust off once in a blue moon is her trio from 1967."Early Tapes" is the title on FMP.It's good.She didn't often record in trio(with just bass and drums) as here.You can hear it on YouTube.
    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

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    And...

    ... a video of The Cortege!

    Although this is a documentary with musical highlights, and sometimes cuts away from the music, rather than presenting the whole thing start to finish.




  22. #22
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    btw and apropos of nothing, when I met Henry Cow in 1977, Chris & Maggie took me to see the Westbrook Brass Band, who were playing a shopping center opening (!!) and they were really great and it was my first sighting of Phil Minton and my only sighting of Paul Rutherford.

    I saw Minton earlier this year and told him I had seen him with the Westies at a shopping center opening over 40 years ago and he looked totally astonished!
    Cool annecdotes

    Quote Originally Posted by Baribrotzer View Post
    And...

    ... a video of The Cortege!

    Sooo very precious, thanks

    will watch this w-e.

    Although this is a documentary with musical highlights, and sometimes cuts away from the music, rather than presenting the whole thing start to finish.



    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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    Member Munster's Avatar
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    Catching up on my Mike Westbrook collection led me to this amazing song with an amazing tuba solo (I never thought I would see that phrase in print) played on the 1969 album Marchings Song. The solo on the song - Conflict - is played by George Smith. In the informative booklet accompanying the three-CD album (cheap at twice the price) the critic and poet Chris Searle describes Conflict as “a monstrous artillery passage of nearly 11 minutes of agonising ensemble sound, unremitting sonic violence and pain that is unique in the canon of jazz”. Duncan Heining, who wrote the booklet, writes of the solo itself: “It features a bravura performance by tuba player George Smith that, paradoxically, gives the piece an unusual human essence with its strange, pitiful and mammalian cries. It proffers the question, and one that the military machine can never answer, ‘Why!’”.

    The whole song is pretty harrowing; the tuba solo starts at about the four-minute mark (and should initially be heard in the context of the entire piece, IMO).

    'There are no certain answers and no time to understand / The goal's a changing paradise, a moment out of date'

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Munster View Post
    led me to this amazing song with an amazing tuba solo (I never thought I would see that phrase in print)
    Sorry to take this off-topic...

    If you're interested in tuba (solos), Munster, check out Daniel Herskedal - imagine Arve Henricksen playing tuba, & you might get a sense of what's going on - he also has a fantastic ear for haunting, beautiful, melody.

    https://danielherskedal.bandcamp.com/

    Harbour is just recently released, & is excellent. But for me, his preceding album, Call For Winter is the outstanding release in his overall catalogue.

  25. #25
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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