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30 August 2019 
Life After Abbey Road
No. 29
After Abbey Road

Mike Westbrook Band

AFTER ABBEY ROAD

A new digital release on September 27th celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles masterwork

Reviewing a Westbrook Band performance in 2010 Daily Telegraph critic Ivan Hewett wrote:

 

Composer and pianist Mike Westbrook has been tapping into the ancestral memories of the English for decades. He plucks out folk tunes, music-hall songs, hymns, lines from William Blake, and mingles them ingeniously with another half-remembered thing - jazz and blues - until we hardly know where one ends and the next begins.

More than twenty years ago the Beatles Abbey Road received the Westbrook treatment, and this week the resulting show made a welcome return. At the time this was a risky proposition. This isnt a half-remembered folk tune, this is something audiences know only too well. They jealously guard every guitar lick, and treasure every word, even the baffling ones (Im still wondering what the line She could steal, but she could not rob might actually mean).

Abbey Road being the first album I ever bought with my saved-up pocket- money, Im as fanatical about it as the next man. I have to admit the Westbrook bands sound, with its rumbustious tuba (played by Andy Grappy), the wailing high Balkan-sounding clarinet (Pete Whyman) and the solid and ostentatiously plain piano-playing of Mike Westbrook himself, all took some getting used to. Not to mention the singing of Kate Westbrook, which is about as far from McCartney as you could imagine.

But it wasnt long before I could feel my resistance crumbling. The great thing about Westbrooks arrangements is that theyre alert to all the albums references, not just the English ones. Oh, Darling here sounded like a proper 1950s rock-and-roll ballad, Westbrooks piano hammering away like a bluesmans, singer John Winfield belting out the song with throat-tearing abandon.

With the familiar album sound stripped away, the band could seize on the intriguing harmonies and run with them - as in Shes so heavy, where the repeating chordal pattern is just begging to have ecstatic jazz sax and guitar riffs entwined over the top.

Sometimes you feel the band is gently sending up the original, which of course adds to the quintessential Englishness of the whole thing. Maxwells Silver Hammer sounded like a perky music-hall song, sung with a trace of a Northern accent by Kate Westbrook, Grappys tuba grunting satirically down below.

But mostly their affection lent a new romantic glow to the music, exemplified in the long, melancholy improvised duet from the two wind players that began the second set. We were all mystified, until finally Golden Slumbers emerged, like a sunrise out of mist, and everybody cheered.

Ivan Hewett - Daily Telegraph Review of 606 Club performance - October 2010

After Abbey Road is available as a digital download from 27th September.

Mike Westbrook Band

John Winfield voice Kate Westbrook voice tenor horn, piccolo

Brian Godding guitar Mike Westbrook piano

Pete Whyman alto saxophone & clarinet Alan Wakeman baritone & soprano saxophones

Andy Grappy tuba Peter Fairclough drums

AFTER ABBEY ROAD is a digital release Westbrook Records with distribution by

Proper Music

Official release date: September 27th 2019.

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