02/12/2023 JAZZ CAFE POST 20:30 £20


The new MIKE WESTBROOK BAND of BANDS brings together key musicians from Mike and Kate Westbrook’s many small-scale projects. Joining the Trio of Kate, Mike, and saxophonist Chris Biscoe are four long-time alumni - accordionist Karen Street, saxophonist/ clarinettist Pete Whyman, Marcus Vergette on bass and Coach York on drums. Formed in 1982 the Trio is the longest established and most widely travelled of all Mike’s ensembles. The group’s mix of composition, song and improvisation has been at the heart of many Westbrook projects, from the seminal Brass Band of the ‘70s to the current Uncommon Orchestra. The unique repertoire around which the performance of the Band of Bands is based, has been shaped by the experience of touring and of collaborating with artists in many countries. There are re-creations of Westbrook classics alongside new compositions, and arrangements of some lesser-known standards, all interpreted by some of the UK’s most original and distinctive soloists.

Mike Westbrook has led and composed for a succession of big bands and small groups since the 1960s. His compositions range from large-scale works such as The Cortège and London Bridge is Broken Down to stage musicals, jazz cabaret, opera and experimental theatre, and pieces for radio, TV, and cinema. He has toured world-wide and made over fifty albums, among them Citadel/Room 315, featuring John Surman, Glad Day, settings of William Blake and On Duke’s Birthday, dedicated to Duke Ellington. His Big Band Rossini was the first jazz work ever to be featured in the BBC Proms. Theatre work includes Adrian Mitchell's Tyger, staged by the National Theatre in 1971. Television music credits include the award-winning BBC drama Caught on a Train. His opera Coming Through Slaughter, about the New Orleans cornettist Buddy Bolden, was based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje. Concert works combining jazz and classical ensembles include Chanson Irresponsable with the New Westbrook Orchestra, Classical Blues 2002 for the BBC Concert Orchestra and a saxophone concerto for John Harle and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Bean Rows and Blues Shots.

Collaborations with Kate Westbrook include the one-woman opera Cape Gloss, Turner in Uri, inspired by JMW Turner’s travels in the Alps and Paintbox Jane about the painter Dufy. Their jazz cabaret Mama Chicago won the Edinburgh Fringe Award in in 1978 and began a whole series of music theatre shows, notably Art Wolf, dedicated to the 18th century Swiss painter Caspar Wolf, The Serpent Hit, a political fable, the song cycle Fine ’n Yellow and their epic jazz rock oratorio, A Bigger Show with The Uncommon Orchestra. Recent albums include Kate’s GRANITE, inspired by Dartmoor, and also with her Granite Band, Earth Felt The Wound, about threats to the environment.

2022 saw the 40th anniversary of the Westbrook Trio, with saxophonist Chris Biscoe. This forms the basis of a new seven-piece group, the Band of Bands. Mike Westbrook currently performs The Westbrook Blake, with vocalists Phil Minton and Kate Westbrook, and, with the Uncommon Orchestra, On Duke’s Birthday and Rossini Re-Loaded. Two major retrospective albums have recently been released, London Bridge Live in Zurich 1990 and CATANIA, recorded at a Mike Westbrook Music Festival in Sicily in 1992. He has released three solo piano albums, Paris, Starcross Bridge and The Piano and Me.

“Mike Westbrook is one of the Britain’s most creative, experimental and daring jazz composers” – The Times

"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

"Britain's most innovative Big Band leader" - The Wire

"Mike Westbrook puts an Exhilarating contemporary spin on the big band tradition. The surging excitement of an ensemble in in full cry is seldom far away, even on Measure to Measure, Kate Westbrook's Shakespearean adaptation that uses words in ways undreamt of during the heyday of Big Band vocalists" - The Guardian

"In Westbrook, big band music has an historically aware champion who can keep the genre moving forward with wit and style" - The Scotsman

Line up:

Mike Westbrook – piano

Kate Westbrook – voice

Chris Biscoe - saxophone

Karen Street – accordion

Pete Whyman – saxophone

Marcus Vergette – double bass

Coach York – drums