The Westbrooks have made many beautiful and profound records but this is my favourite. That I can say that without forgetting Metropolis, Citadel/Room 315, Marching Song, The Westbrook Blake, Chanson Irresponsable, Mama Chicago, London Bridge, Art Wolf, The Westbrook Rossini or On Duke’s Birthday is a measure of the man’s music. How many jazz composers could point to a career as rich in masterpieces as that? One always feels with a Westbrook & Westbrook project that every detail has been addressed in order to make the most complete artistic statement. The first emphasis is on the music, the second to ensure it allows the expression of something beyond itself.
Here the idea of a New Orleans funeral procession is a metaphor for life’s journey. Shame then that Enja have truncated the original explanatory sleevenotes to their detriment. No matter, you can still revel in the righteousness of Cordoba, Westbrook’s magnificent setting of Lorca, or the glorious Santarcangelo with Hubert Parry’s arrangement of Jerusalem at its heart. There are splendours too in Democratie and July ’79, an affirmation of the natural world in Erme Estuary and so much, more beauty in this CD. Should there be a heaven and should I get an invite, may this be the music to carry me there.
Duncan Heining - Jazzwise - June 2011
“It's only recently that the evolution of distinctly European forms of jazz has been acknowledged, but it began decades ago. One of the first milestones was this huge, unsettling work. Based on the form of a traditional New Orleans funeral, with its dirges, lamentations and joyful, life-affirming return from the graveyard, it involves 17 musicians, two voices and poems by Federico García Lorca, William Blake and Herman Hesse, among others. Over the whole thing hovers the gigantic shadow of Duke Ellington. The Cortège evolved over several years and, if there is a definitive version, this 1982 recording is it.”
Dave Gelly - The Observer - 12 June 2011
Long unavailable and reissued for Mike Westbrook’s 75th birthday, this is the great composer at a 1970s peak, creating music for his 17-piece orchestra (including his binary star, wife Kate) quite unlike anyone else’s. A natural eclectic who shapes his eclecticism to say what he has to say, Westbrook takes poems by Lorca, Blake, Rimbaud, Hesse, Clare, dialect pieces from Italy and Finland, English and Swedish folk song and binds them (very loosely) round the Life-Death-Life parade of a New Orleans funeral.
Woven into it are threads of English folk myth, Andalusian processional and political comment. Notwithstanding any intellectual underpinnings, the music has the capacity to reflect the universal in the diversity of the particular; and behind its colour and organisation is a freedom and malleability that brings out the best in a superb band. Like Westbrook, it’s unique.
Ray Comiskey - The Irish Times - 13 May 2011