A record of a remarkable free festival, not previously released but recently reprised in that the Westbrooks returned only last November (2018) to Catania playing much of the music recorded here. Of course, there were differences in performances 26 years apart, not least reflecting the cruel loss over the years of Peter Saberton, Dave Plews and Danilo Terenzi. Saberton's piano weaves throughout the 150 minutes-plus of music captured here. The setlist reflects much of the Westbrooks' repertoire: their extraordinary expressions of Blake are revealed in Phil Minton's earth-rending 'Long John Brown' and the visionary 'I See Thy Form'. In contrast, Kate Westbrook brings her theatricality to 'Alabamasong' more than able to go mano a mano, well, tonsil to tonsil, with the histrionic genius of Minton. The sound is superb, the coughing and car horns adding to the open-air ambience of Sicilian street music. The restoration and editing was about Jon Hiseman's last job before his sad passing, and the recording is understandably dedicated to him.
Westbrook Records WR004
Album compiled from various sources recorded on July 24th/25th/26th 1992 at the Mike Westbrook Music Festival in Catania, Sicily presented by the Associazione Catania Jazz.
Restoration and editing by Jon Hiseman at Temple Music Studios, London January 2018.
Additional mixing and mastering by Callum Godfoy and Jay Auborn at dBs Studio, Bristol, June and July 2018.
With thanks to Steve Berry, Filippo Bianchi, Justin Hill and Paul Wilson at the British Library.
cover photo Guy Le Querree / Magnum Photos.
with the support of Airshaft Trust and the Patrons of The Mike Westbrook Orchestra.
Orchestra representation Peter Conway.
Westbrook Records are distributed by Proper Music Distribution.
Dedicated to Jon Hiseman (1944 - 2018)
See Mike Westbrook's Programme Note
Mike Westbrook Recordings
Mike Westbrook Orchestra
2. View from the Drawbridge
3. Love and Understanding
4. Tender Love
6. Song of the Rian
7. Factotum al Bebop
8. I See Thy Form
10. Lush Life
11. South from Toulouse
12. Long John Brown
13. Surabaya Johnny
15. The Topers' Rant
saxophones Chris Biscoe, Alan Barnes, Pete Whyman, Chris Caldwell
saxophone & accordion Karen Street
trumpets Graham Russell, Dave Plews, Noel Langley, James McMillan
trombones Paul Nieman, Adrian Lane, Tracy Holloway
tuba Andy Grappy cello Frank Schaefer piano Pete Saberton
piano Mike Westbrook vibraphone Anthony Kerr bass Steve Berry
drums Peter Fairclough
voice Kate Westbrook with guests Phil Minton voice
Dominique Pifarely violin Danilo Terenzi trombone
in memory of
A Bigger Show
Catania - Live in Sicily 1992
Glad Day - Live
Live in Sicily 1992 - 2 CDs
Andy Robson Jazzwise & Gramophone
A poignant moment, with Brexit looming, to contemplate this vivid example of what was possible 27 years ago. In July 1992, jazz composer Mike Westbrook, with 24 musicians, plus crew and guests, flew to Catania, Sicily, for a three-evening festival of Westbrook’s music. It took place in the open air, in the heart of the city, and admission was free.
The music on this double CD has been garnered from surviving tapes and cassettes made at the time, although the quality is remarkably good. Most of it comes from the evening devoted to what Westbrook called his European Song Book, including settings of poems by Lorca and Blake, and arrangements of songs by Brecht and Weill. There’s also a bravura treatment of It Don’t Mean a Thing, with phenomenal soprano saxophone from Peter Whyman. In fact, this was a cracking good band altogether, combining old Westbrook hands such as Whyman and fellow saxophonist Chris Biscoe with brilliant newcomers like Alan Barnes (alto saxophone and clarinet) and vibraphonist Anthony Kerr. Recalling the event, Westbrook writes that the Catania festival was “the best gift a composer ever had”.
Dave Gelly The Observer
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