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Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.
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In February 1981 my father died. Among all the many things I owe him is a sense of his great love of music, and the theatre,- a love which my mother shared. He has my eternal thanks for introducing me, as a teenager, to the music of Duke Ellington. At that time he bought me a 10-inch LP of Duke’s 1940s band. That record was my bible for many years. His funeral was at Holbeton village church in Devon. Kate and I played Duke’s hymn Come Sunday.
At the time of my father’s death, I was working on the music for a TV documentary, The Haunt of Man directed by Mischa Scorer. The film was about world resources and, inevitably, about our rapacious destruction of the Environment, and the ruthless exploitation by the so-called ‘civilised’ world of ‘Third World’ countries. Forty years on that situation has only got worse.
I wrote music to accompany a sequence in the film that showed some of the glories of the natural world, now under threat. This short piece formed the basis of a new section in The Cortège. I named it after the river near my parents’ home in Devon, the Erme. Kate and I lived and worked there through the 1990s.
In its lower reaches the Erme flows from water meadows to a wide, wooded estuary, a broad stretch of mud flats at low tide, and across a threshold of shallows and sand banks into the open sea.
The music uses a 9/4 rhythm, introduced by Dave Barry using mallets on drums and cymbals. Then a trio of bamboo flute, cello and bass guitar plays a sequence of chords. The chords thicker up with brass and reeds behind a theme for piccolo, clarinet and bassoon, leading to Phil Todd’s clarinet solo. Later a waltz theme played in thirds by trombone and tenor horn, is superimposed against the band’s 9/4 figures.
A clarinet break leads to a rhythmic, blues-like section in which Malcolm Griffiths’ plunger muted trombone solo echoes Joe Nanton’s solo on the 1946 version of Black and Tan Fantasy that was my introduction to Duke Ellington’s music.
After a trombone break, layers of sound by the Orchestra drift over an ostinato figure by piano, piccolo and cello. The waltz theme is reprised by Chris Hunter on tenor saxophone, over washes of cymbals, as the piece merges in to a ‘choral guitar’ improvisation by Brian Godding.
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The WestbrookJazz Moving Picture Show has moved here
18 September 2020

Erme Estuary Programme Notes
Erme Estuary
Mike Westbrooks programme notes for the WestbrookJazz Picture Show "Erme Estuary"
which can be seen here
Mike Westbrook
No. 40
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Kate & Mike Westbrook
Kate and Mike Westbrook