Born: March 21, 1936 Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor
Mike Westbrook has led, and composed for, a succession of Big Bands and small groups since the early 1960's. He has toured extensively throughout Europe and further afield and made 40 albums. His principal compositions for Jazz Orchestra include Citadel/Room 315 featuring John Surman, On Duke's Birthday dedicated to the memory of Duke Ellington, Big Band Rossini which was featured in the 1992 BBC Proms and Chanson Irresponsable, (Enja Records) commissioned by BBC Radio 3, which brings together jazz and classical musicians in the New Westbrook Orchestra. Mike Westbrook was awarded an OBE in 1988, and, in 2004 an Honorary Doctorate of Music by the University of Plymouth....
Britain's most innovative Big Band leader. The Wire.
With this immensely powerful work (London Bridge is Broken Down) Westbrook reinstates his claim to international pre-eminence among the heirs of Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. The Times.
By the end, Catania (the Mike Westbrook Festival) had massively affirmed Westbrook's stature as a giant of contemporary music. The Guardian.
As his career amply demonstrates, - he has produced a body of work embracing everything from opera through settings of Kate Westbrook's song cycles, to jazz suites and cabaret, - he is luckily for all lovers of innovative and original music, thoroughly committed to maintaining his reputation as the UK's foremost jazz composer. The Times.
Westbrook is among the most serious composers in any field at present. Few contemporary classical composers have covered so much ground, or worked in as many forms as Westbrook, a self taught musician. Measure For Measure shows how far from what is conventionally regarded as jazz the Westbrooks can go. A collage of verse from the Shakespeare play, whose music comments wittily on Viennese School aesthetics, Measure For Measure is seriously 'serious'. It remains, however, like all Mike Westbrook's work, rooted in jazz. The Independent.
The Mike Westbrook Orchestra (Bar Utopia) is a phenomenal band, and Westbrook himself a master of of jazz orchestration. He can suggest a carnival, a ballroom, or a greasy back street with a few cunningly placed notes. The full effect is awe inspiring. The Observer.
Mike Westbrook puts an Exhilarating contemporary spin on the big band tradition. The surging excitement of an ensemble in in full cry is seldom far away, even on Measue To Measure, Kate Westbrook's Shakespearean adaptation that uses words in ways undreamt of during the hey day of Big Band vocalists. The Guardian.
Mike Westbrook's settings of William Blake, perhaps the greatest work in all British Jazz. The Independent on Sunday.
Whether he is writing for a trio or a 20 piece orchestra, Westbrook's style is unmistakable. He combines instruments in unique ways, twists conventional jazz forms into surprising new shapes and seasons it all with delicate touches of humour and irony. The Observer.
In Westbrook, big band music has an historically aware champion who can keep the genre moving forward with wit and style. The Scotsman.