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The WestbrookJazz Moving Picture Show has moved here
Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.
5 April 2022
MOVING PICTURE SHOW IMAGES
During lockdown the weekly online film shows screened by Westbrook Jazz provided a much needed continuity. These film shows eventually numbered 75, and they opened up new creative possibilities in the presentation of our music. With her painted animations of songs, Kate, in collaboration with editor Chris Topley, may have invented a new art form!
Each film was produced from a series of original paintings illustrating and enhancing one of the songs in our canon. These images were then photographed, manipulated, and edited to the soundtrack. Kate’s unique gouache paintings, art works in their own right, are now available for sale, either as a series or individually.
For details of ‘Hollywood Splash’ the first set of paintings on show, see here
24 April 2022
CELEBRATING THE DUKE
Ronnie Scott’s Soho London April 12th and 13th 2022
The Uncommon Orchestra
Graham Russell Robin Pengilley Andy Hague Sam Massey trumpets
Pete Whyman Roz Harding Chris Biscoe Sarah Dean Alan Wakeman Ian Wellens saxophones
Joe Carnell Sam Chamberlain - Keen Stewart Stunell Ashley Nayler trombones
Dominique Pifarely violin Jesse Molins Matthew North guitars
Frank Schaefer cello Marcus Vergette bass Coach York drums
Kate Westbrook voice & friscalettu Phil Minton voice
Matthew Bourne piano & co-director
Mike Westbrook composer/arranger/MD
Checking In / On Duke’s Birthday 1 / I.D.M.A.T. / East Stratford //
Says The Duke / On Duke’s Birthday 2 / Breaking Up / Music Is /
Tulip or Turnip
Financial Times critic Mike Hobart writes:
Mike Westbrook’s Duke Ellington tribute offers kaleidoscopic jazz
The Uncommon Orchestra’s gig at Ronnie Scott’s in London expanded his 1984 suite to orchestral proportions.
The inspiration for Mike Westbrook’s Ellington-themed On Duke’s Birthday was a 1983 working visit to New York that coincided with Ellington’s birthday. “There was nonstop Ellington, everywhere,” explained the English composer/bandleader to this sold-out show at Ronnie Scott’s. “It gave a sense of how wonderful the world could be.”
Westbrook recorded the work in France a year later — five of that 10-piece band featured tonight — but this gig was the first time the score had been delivered on an orchestral scale. Now breaths of alto sax launched a cacophony of clarinets and orchestral might yielded to whispered scampers of quietly plucked strings.
The evening opened with a slow burn of stinging Jesse Molins guitar peaking with dense harmonies from the band’s 14-piece brass. “Checking In” is the work’s warm-up piece, but by the time it ended, a kaleidoscope of textures had supported solo violin, and dynamics had stretched to extremes.
“On Duke’s Birthday 1” came next, an epic making full use of the orchestra’s range and solo strength. The piece began with chamber modernism from cello and violin, before the blares and stabs of brass orthodoxy merged with unexpected juxtapositions and the surreal, Kate Westbrook a showstopper on bamboo flute.
Two rows of musicians play brass instruments in a club setting, with sheet music on stands in front of them The band featured a 14-piece brass section “East Stratford Too-Doo” came next, with its catchy phrase passed from bass to band. The piece lasted 30-odd minutes and included a highlight concoction of moans, shouts and vocalese from vocalist Phil Minton before ending with a surge of samba and a dead stop.
Although the evening’s rich brass textures and snazzy riffs have Ellingtonian roots, these are only elements in Westbrook’s score. The Uncommon Orchestra’s range of influences is wide, and two electric guitars, cello and violin, bring classical music and rock into their sonic range.
That said, Westbrook, like Ellington, relishes texture and scores with particular musicians in mind: plucked electric guitars, a warble of two clarinets and a sigh of trombone for Dominique Pifarély’s effervescent violin, sheens of brass and a modal blues pulse for Alan Wakeman’s tenor sax; Chris Biscoe held the stage alone, whether on bass clarinet or alto sax.
The second half began with a new piece, “Says the Duke”. Lyrics stringing together Ellingtonian references were delivered by Kate Westbrook in Weimar cabaret style. A fast waltz followed, but that was just the start, and then the trippy theme of “Music Is”, titled after a quote from the Duke. Here it was launched by Frank Schaefer’s cello and gently expanded through the band.
The encore, “Tulip or Turnip”, a pyrotechnic romp of big-band be-bop with surreal lyrics, found the ensemble roaring into gear with discipline and panache. ★★★★☆
Mike Westbrook’s ‘On Duke’s Birthday’
plays the Cheltenham Festival on May 1st
Audience member Alan Laney writes :
Spectacular gig by the Uncommon Orchestra at Ronnie Scott's on 12th April. Precision, power and quality solos from all. The music veered from swing to rock to improv without ever sounding glib or facile. Every note sounded 'meant' with absolutely no tendency to eclectism for eclectism's sake.
The sound was brilliant and despite the obvious focus on wining and dining at the club, the audience was captivated throughout. Being able to see the musicians up close enhanced the whole experience.
So reassuring to be able to spend 2 hours in the company of artists creating music that seemed to exist in its own universe, untainted by the psychopaths and charlatans dominating the world order.
Thank you Mike, Kate et al. Absolutely magnificent.
Duke Ellington in the 1940's
Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons