composer, pianist, big band
Mike Westbrook has led, and composed for,
a succession of Big Bands and small groups since the early 1960s. 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, On Duke’s Birthday (dedicated
to the memory of Duke Ellington), and Big Band Rossini, which was featured
in the 1992 BBC Proms.
Works for classical ensembles include a saxophone concerto Bean Rows
and Blues Shots, commissioned by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta for
John Harle, and a score for the 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 Poliakoff
starring Peggy Ashcroft.
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 Michael Ondaatje’s novel 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 which is set to tour UK
this year. They have also created large-scale concert works incorporating
settings of European poetry, as in London Bridge is Broken Down,
a work for voice, jazz group and chamber orchestra. 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 and broadcast by BBC Radio
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.
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