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The WestbrookJazz Moving Picture Show has moved here
Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.
6 June 2022
CHELTENHAM BLUES - postscript by Mike Westbrook
Before the performance of On Duke’s Birthday in the Cheltenham Jazz Festival on May 1st, four members of the Uncommon Orchestra gave an impromptu performance of Blues for Terenzi: Chris Biscoe, Dominique Pifarély, Marcus Vergette and me. As every year, this was filmed as part of a series made of artists appearing in the festival by local cider makers and festival sponsors Henry Weston.
The film has now been added to the Moving Picture Show, as No 78.
Mike Westbrook, Dominique Pifarely, Chris Biscoe & Marcus Vergette
Introducing the Orchestra, festival director Tony Dudley-Evans noted that, in the 25-year history of the festival, this was the first appearance by a Westbrook Band. He didn’t mention that there was a connection with Cheltenham on one occasion in the past. In July 1995 the Steve Martland Band gave a concert in the Everyman Theatre with a programme that included the first performance of my composition Blues for Terenzi.
The late Steve Martland was a classically trained composer whose work really challenged the conventions of classical music, and upset a lot of people in the process.The line-up of the band was unorthodox for a classical ensemble: trumpet, trombone, 3 saxophones, violin, piano, guitar, bass guitar, drums and marimba. Moreover the instruments were all amplified. It looked more like a jazz/rock group than anything else. However there was little room for improvisation. The music was rigorously through-composed, minimalist, mechanistic, compelling and in-your-face. Some of the heaviest music around. The personnel included Pete Whyman, who has been central to most of our projects since the 1980s; Chris Caldwell, a regular baritone player in our orchestra; and drummer Simon Pearson, who later played with us in Off Abbey Road and The Serpent Hit.
Steve’s invitation to write for the band gave me carte blanche to use its resources as I wished. I took the opportunity to write some of the most complex harmonic schemes and tightest rhythmic structures that I’ve attempted, while leaving space open for improvisation. Pete Whyman was the main soloist. At the Cheltenham premiere Pete played with emotional conviction, musical imagination and technical brilliance. It was this performance, recorded on a DAT Walkman, that was later released on the Orchestra of Smith’s Academy album.*
That performance was on July 3rd 1995. When I began work on the piece I heard that Danilo Terenzi had died on May 4th. A dear friend and fine trombonist, Danilo died of cancer at the age of 39. With a heavy heart I turned for inspiration to one of the most moving elegies I know, Jimmy Yancey’s Death Letter Blues. I wrote the 8-bar theme that opens and runs right through the Martland work. This was the tune that we played on May 1st. Only later did I recall that Cheltenham had heard that blues once before.
* The Orchestra of Smith’s Academy ENJA Records 1998
Blues for Terenzi
The Steve Martland Band
The Steve Martland Band
27 June 2022
Berwick Street, Soho,- 1989 finds us in a cramped and smokey basement studio. We are mixing and editing the Off Abbey Road album with Matthias Winckelmann. A colleague of his had seen the band on a gig in Germany and reported enthusiastically to him. He understood immediately what we were on about. It was characteristic of the man to base his decisions on instinct springing from his passion for jazz, rather than considerations of fashion and commercialism. It didn’t seem to bother him that OAR might sit rather oddly in his catalogue of ‘serious’ contemporary jazz. Rather I think he took a mischievous delight in what was, in some ways, a controversial project. The album was recorded at Willisau Festival in 1989. For the occasion Matthias managed to get hold of the first digital multi-track recorder in Europe, a massive machine. Not everyone was au fait with the new technology and there were some problems with the recording. Hence those long sessions in Berwick Street.
MAN of JAZZ - Matthias Winckelmann 1941 - 2022
Matthias Winckelmann - photo Enja Records
When the album came out it upset a few Beatles fans and a few jazz fans, but OAR was generally well received. Well enough indeed to encourage Matthias to commission a documentary film for German TV, focusing on the band’s UK debut at the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road. He spent several days with us in London with the young director Joseph Rusnak and a film crew. In the event the TV series of which this was a part, was shelved. The film can be seen as No 21 in the Moving Picture Show and includes a brief appearance by Matthias himself. We toured OAR for several years, most recently in 2012. George Martin gave the album his blessing. We never heard back from Paul McCartney.
Matthias had open ears. Unlike some record labels we could mention, Enja had no rigid ‘house style’. The range and diversity of our work did not deter him. As the the 90s progressed he released The Cortège, Bar Utopia, The Orchestra of Smith’s Academy, Glad Day and Chanson Irresponsable. Starting with OAR these six albums give a comprehensive picture of a productive and rewarding decade.
This couldn’t last. The music business was changing, with physical record sales plummeting, record companies and musicians had to adapt or die. From our perspective the glory days of European Jazz, were over. Only the most commercial festivals survived. Hitherto focussed entirely on modern jazz, Enja began to diversify. Though Matthias loyally kept our work in the catalogue, and we were often in touch, we no longer fitted his stable. And we too were moving in a new direction. Recently we agreed on an amicable arrangement that from now on we would handle our Enja catalogue.
From our occasional exchanges I learned that Enja had been hit by massive, and unforeseen financial problems. Personally Matthias had to pay a heavy price, a poor reward for a life dedicated to jazz.Though he spoke about it with that laconic humour of his, it must have taken its toll. Anyone without his strength of character would have been floored by the crisis, but he kept the company alive and continued to plan for the future, and to rave about some new young jazz musician he had just come across.
In recent years Matthias’s health suffered and he had several periods in hospital. I gathered that there was re-organisation within the company and that latterly he had less to do with administration and was able to concentrate on his real interest and great strength, the creative relationship with the artists.
Time spent in Matthias’s company, in Munich, London or at some European festival, was always a great pleasure for Kate and me. We look back on our ten-year collaboration with him as one of the high points in our musical careers.
Matthias was a great bear of a man. He viewed the follies and vicissitudes of the jazz world with a world-weary sense of humour. His love of the music never faltered. He was one of those wonderfully romantic fools who not only dream of a better world but actually do something to make it happen. He certainly made things happen for us and for our music. In a culture where there is much caution and prevarication, where there are entrenched attitudes and closed doors,- Matthias would say “Yes! Let’s do it!”