A central figure in UK and European jazz, Mike Westbrook, is 85 today, 21 March 2021. We (+) invited friends, colleagues and fans to wish him a very happy birthday.
Alessandro Achilli: Happy birthday, Mike!
I’ve been in love with your music ever since that night in July 1978 in Santarcangelo when your Brass Band gave such a beautiful concert that the entire audience kept singing the choir of Let the Slave long after you and your crew had left the stage. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why your Blake settings are forever engraved in my heart. And then there were concerts in the years that followed, not only of The Westbrook Blake but also The Cortège, Platterback, Off Abbey Road, the Brass Band again, your Trio, On Duke’s Birthday… until the Italian edition of A Bigger Show with the Artchipel Orchestra conducted by you in 2016.
Sergio Amadori: Ciao ciao bambino! May you live all the days of your life…
(Meanwhile – we’re celebrating our own festive Westbrook Listening Week here…HERE. We’ll always have Mike!)
Love from Sergio.
Frankie Armstrong: Hello Mike,
Loving birthday wishes from Frankie.
I will never forget the day I met you at the Roundhouse in 1975, and all those wonderful concerts and travel we shared.
Listening over the years to your settings of Blake, these have been some of the most moving and transporting musical times of my life!
Hélène Aziza: Very dear Mike
my best wishes of satisfaction in all areas for your birthday . Paris is waiting for you and in particular, the 19 Paul Fort for a new recording, as successful as always.
Je t’embrasse. Hélène, une longue et belle amitié
Bob Baker: Happy birthday Mike!
Many memories stretching back some 50 years. One great example: our meetings at the Chelsea Arts Club to discuss progress on the commission of Paintbox Jane and you sliding off after a while for an impromptu recital on the club piano for the benefit and to the delight of anyone who happened to be in the bar.
Many happy returns! Bob Baker – from fan to friend.
Alan Barnes: All best wishes on your birthday Mike, and thanks for some great gigs over the years with your various ensembles.Stand-out for me were the small band Rossini concerts in Europe, a trip to Sweden including champagne the plane for my 30th birthday and the amazing four day festival of your music in Sicily with the big band.
Great to play Ronnie’s, the 100 Club and the Albert Hall as well. It was a golden time. Have a wonderful birthday and many more of them. Love Alan B.
Issie Barratt: Wishing you the heartiest of happy birthdays Mike -Thanks for filling our lives (and the biggest of stages) with such huge creative gestures, bold statements & immense colour and for being such a trail blazer – encouraging us to widen our sound world, embrace bold structural parameters and broaden our remit to include theatre, lyrics, poetry and wonderful visual arts. “Never be shy & always give it your all – your creativity’s worth it” is the strong mantra we repeatedly hear (Loud and clear) through all you do. It’s enabled us to pluck up the courage to break free and find our own creative truths too. Will raise a glass to you on Sunday Mike !! Much love, Issie
Pompeo Benincasa: Happy Birthday to our big friend Mike ! Two years ago he gave us a big gift, the album ” Catania” , fully dedicated to our long relationship.
Big love from all Catania Jazz Association.
Steve Berry: Inexplicably depping in a rehearsal for Mike’s Cortege this rookie bassist entered a stage rammed full of luminaries and a pad of music way beyond my ability or experience. Ah well…
Civilised, gracious and generous, Mike nonetheless thanked me afterwards and offered words of encouragement.
To those attributes you can add forgiving too (or else perhaps selective amnesia?) because ten years later I joined Mike & Kate for Westbrook Rossini, ushering in a thirty year working relationship with the perennial work of genius that is The Westbrook Blake regularly reuniting us.
The pandemic cruelly sees Mike’s 85th fall within The Great Silence so the celebration tour will just have to wait ’til his 86th I guess.
Happy birthday maestro! Steve Berry
Riccardo Bertoncelli: Mike Westbrook was one of the musicians for whom, in my youngest years, I discovered and loved England. I remember my first record of him, “Love Songs”, first of a series that is not yet finished (“Off Abbey Road” escapes me from a long long time!). Thank you Mike for your gifts, and what a pleasure to share with you the day of birth (today I’m turning 69).
Chris Biscoe: I’ve known Mike for over 40 years and he constantly creates new material, whether original music or re-imagining standards, rock classics and more – Westbrook Rossini: street band to concert septet to augmented big band to Albert Hall Proms night. And a silly story – the Brass Band on a winter tour in Sweden, travelling with PA and in the state of hysterical exhaustion where a newspaper picture of a bemused looking moose which had stumbled into a school canteen was met by Mike’s “Not a well elk”. Happy birthday Mike, love Chris
Brian Blain : Happy Birthday Mike
The first time that we saw you, with the John Surman, Mike Osborne, Henry Lowther band, we just felt that something new and exciting had arrived on the British scene, even though some of it was not exactly comfortable-a most important part of a new jazz experience. After that, various big bands and your prodigious gift for melodic, as well as ‘hairy’ writing meant that you were one of the leaders in possibly the most exciting periods in post-war jazz. Fast forward to a couple of years ago and an incredible show at Ronnie Scott’s with your brilliant musicians from the South West, as well as London veterans like Alan Wakeman and Dick Pearce which showed that you are still creating, still fresh and exciting and still a unique voice in British music. Love from us both; Brian and Maureen Blain
Tommy Bodmer: Dear Mike,
The other day I watched the documentary about the Brass Band. This brought back memories of how the writer Bernhard Lassahn played me the Brass Band LP “Plays for the Record” probably in 1980. A whole new world opened up for me that evening. Who would have thought that one day you would set to music one of Bernhard’s poems, “Traurig, aber falsch”? And little did I know, that in 1982 I would make your and Kate’s acquaintance and that you would turn out to be two of the nicest people I have ever met. Bettina and I hope that in spite of the ghastly virus you can enjoy your birthday. Tommy Bodmer
Georgie Born: Dear Mike, your music and the ensembles were among the best experiences of my musical life. You wrote so beautifully for the cello, and for me, around the rhythm section, and the voices. I remember the soaring solo you gave me in the Cortege — being up late in the studio doing a few takes, just you and me and maybe Lawrence worrying away… And it had incredible joy, as music can.
Salutations and love, Georgie.
Billie Bottle: Dear Mike
Wishing you joy and jazz…merrily, merrily to welcome in the year!
With love from Billie Bottle x
Matthew Bourne: Hello Mike – I hope this finds you well, and many happy returns for today. Your presence on the scene is an inspiration to many, and your commitment to the music – of making new work, and somehow managing to find new ways to express it – is a unique and indistinguishable force. So thank you Mike – wishing you and Kate a fabulous day down in sunny Dawlish.
Chris Caldwell: For me, yesterday summed up Mike Westbrook’s incredible energy, brilliance and ability to constantly surprise. I was a participant in a Jazz South/PRSF online zoom session. I was amazed and warmed to see Mike (& Kate) were there too, looking forward, looking to create, at one with the new technology. I hadn’t expected to see Mike but on reflection this is crazy. He’s always been ahead of his time, pushing back the boundaries of creativity, connecting & challenging his audience through his sublime compositions and arrangements. Westbrook has always been musically, zooming miles ahead. May his long ride in a very fast ‘Solid Gold Cadillac’ machine continue for some time yet. Happy birthday Mike, now is the time to hold onto your musical hats and fasten those seatbelts as it Starts Here!
Peter Conway: I first encountered Mike and Kate at a concert by their innovative Brass Band at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1977. Phil Minton’s stunning vocal renditions of songs from Mike’s masterpiece ‘Glad Day’ live with me to today – and I became hooked on Mike’s music. And over many years since then, I have worked on many projects with them and now have the privilege of being their manager. A particular landmark was promoting the London premiere of ‘London Bridge’ in a church in the East End featuring both his orchestra and a classical chamber ensemble.
Late in his career Mike finally relented to record not one but two solo piano CD’s that display the breadth and depth of his composition and improvisational skills. A ‘revelation’ as one reviewer noted. And not one to rest on his laurels at 85, Mike is still composing and releasing exceptional music – and long may he continue to do so! Happy birthday Mike. Best wishes, Peter
Claudio Cusaro: Here is a fan who saw Mike Westbrook in a legendary Willisau Jazz Festival playin’ “Off Abbey Road” and another time in my hometown, with Chris Biscoe and Kate Westbrook. Great music, bright moments in a wonderful career, when “English jazz” was a magical word for us aficionados in Italy.
Happy birthday Mike, and a peaceful future
Alex Dutilh: Mike Westbrook is for me one of the few who pioneered an autonomy for a European jazz vision at the right time. His contribution, whatever the format, combines singularity, warmth, elegance, humour and swing. Thanks for all these years of surprising us with “something else”. Alex Dutilh “Open Jazz – France Musique” (*)
Pete Fairclough: Happy 85th Birthday, Mike. Thanks for making so many great memories; The Proms, Catania, Montreal and all those opportunities to play in a woollen suit with flared trousers and a loud tie. All the best, Fairclough OTN.
John Fordham: When I first heard of Mike Westbrook, around 1969, the only British jazz musicians I knew about were early-jazz revivalists like Ken Colyer and Chris Barber – so hearing the then 33 year-old former art student’s exhilarating new fusions of Mingus, Ellington, rock, marching music and free-jazz was an astonishing revelation. Westbrook’s early eclecticism conjured a truly contemporary – and distinctively European – jazz from new and old methods, and his storming bands also unveiled a brilliant rising generation of soloists including John Surman, Mike Osborne, and Alan Skidmore. Opera, cabaret, music theatre and much more would crowd on to that visionary palette over the years. Very happy birthday, Mike, and thanks for so many wonderful memories.
Peter Fritz: Dear Mike,
I remember your sixtieth lunching in our garden in Zürich, our family outing to Dawlish for your seventieth and now you claim to celebrate your 85th! And your concerts all over Europe we came to – time just flies too fast! Happy birthday dear Mike from Lucienne and Peter.
Jonathan Gee: Happy Birthday Mike. A year ago today we should have been sitting at our Steinways at Dean St celebrating your birthday in music. What a year eh ? – but, naturally you and Kate have spent the last year being as creative as anyone I know – of course !
We are raising a glass to your good health and here’s to many more years, concerts and company, Jonathan
Brian Godding: 85 ! Well, it’s only a number at the end of the day and I’m sure you are too busy to notice things like that 🙂 But it does remind me of all the amazing music I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of for many many years . Thank you Mike for including me on this amazing journey, magic! So, I wish you a very happy birthday and of course many more !! And I really , really wish…we could do it all again !! Big Love. Brian & Angie Godding
Tim Goodwin: Best birthday wishes to Mike Westbrook, a generous giant of jazz. Mike took me out of my comfort zone and made me feel comfortable. Have a great day you amazing legend! Love and light!
Roz Harding: Dear Mike,
Wishing you a Rooster Rainbow of a birthday.
I look forward to stepping into the next phase of Westbrook World (there’s still so much to play!) and seeing you & Kate soon.
“…the sun’s about to shine again…” Love from Roz
Alexander Hawkins: Dear Mike, although we’ve met in passing at concerts, we don’t really know each other (but then again, perhaps ‘any friend of Duke’s is a friend of…’? I’m also a member of the Rossini fan club, less fashionable though that one may be!). But a very happy birthday, and continued thanks for your wonderful music: as a bandleader, composer, and pianist, you are an inspiration – Alexander Hawkins
Dave Holdsworth: Wishing to play jazz, it was my great good fortune to arrive in London in the 1960s to find such a vibrant and varied music scene of which I could be a part. The support and encouragement of Mike Westbrook in particular were to prove essential in providing me with a situation in which I felt able to pursue my own musical instincts as well as participate in performing some of the most stimulating and challenging new material.
Our association has lasted more than 50 years and I will always be hugely indebted to you.
Chris Hunter: Hard to believe it’s 43 years since my first European Tour with your incredible All Star Brass Band and Cabaret.
The most magical entourage of Musicians I can ever remember Phil Minton, Kate, George Khan, Paul Rutherford and Trevor Tomkins.
It always felt a bit like running away with the Circus….
And I am eternally in your debt for all of the subsequent support and encouragement you have given me.
Happy Birthday and Love from New York, Chris Hunter.
Alan Jackson: I will always remember The Blue Boar on the M1. Westie and the band were in there in the early hours, eating the fry up, as were a few other rock groups etc. From a distance somebody threw a slice of fried bread past Mike’s ear. From then on it was like madness. Food flying everywhere. In his slow cultured voice, Mike said to me Bon appetit! We had very amusing and creative times with the band and Westie never dictated the way we played. Happy Birthday Mike. AJ.
John Kelman: Happiest of wishes, Mike, for this birthday milestone. I hope you’re doing well and enjoying a suitably grand day. Warmest wishes for continued health and longevity from Ottawa, Canada!
George Khan: A happy birthday greetings to Mike Westbrook, an inspirational band leader and a great talent and a friend who was so encouraging that one felt confident to be oneself, which resulted in a series of unique sounding and extremely exciting concert bands which I am proud to have been part of.
May you carry on and on. George Khan
Chris Laurence: I remember first seeing Mike Westbrook at “ Ronnies Old Place”,with his group featuring John Surman, Harry Miller, Alan Jackson , Mike Osborne and Malcolm Griffiths in the late 60’s. Little did I realise that a few years later I would be playing with those musicians on the album Metropolis!It was very exciting to play this music, and I always remember Westy’s beaming smile while we were playing ! Next it was Citadel 315, another challenging milestone in British Jazz. Even after all this time he’s still enthused, and coming up with new works and combinations of musicians.
A very happy 85th Westy !!! Chris Laurence
Richard Lee: To Mike Westbrook, it’s a mere 85 years, but to me it’s a lifetime, measured out in his capacious jazz that nods to the source but is bigger, genre-rich and European in spirit. A chance TV appearance and the Original Peter was my lodestar; then, how great was Blake in the NT’s Tyger; opening the JCS, a solid gold Man Friday at Bingley, the Brass Band & Mama Chicago in Basildon, and since then I don’t know how many Abbey Roads and Glad Days culminating in a triumphant return to Ronnie’s with the biggest band ever seen at Frith Street… An unparalleled range and Master of Musicke. So many glad days: thank you Mike. Happy birthday.
PS We’ll always have Paris.
Henry Lowther: Hi Mike,
As you know, as a member of your original (very original!) and seminal 11-piece band way back in 1964, we both go back a long way together. I have many happy memories of being in a number of your bands in times past and it was lovely to see you in Churston two years ago. (And thanks for the nice review!).
I’m glad to see that at the age of 85 you are still writing, getting gigs and putting bands together and long may you continue to do so!
I wish you a very Happy 85th Birthday and a lovely day on Sunday, Henry Lowther
Adrian and Julia Mann: Wishing you a very happy birthday, Mike. We’re taking this opportunity to thank you for the huge contribution you have made in many areas over the years, and to acknowledge the humanity, depth, breadth and originality of the great body of work you, with Kate, have produced. Your determined dedication to a continuing creative process is astonishing. Our thanks and love to you both. Adrian and Julia
Jane Mann: Dear Mike, I hope you are having a lovely day. When this black cloud has moved off, I look forward to celebrating your birthday again with your delightful friends from near and far, and with fabulous music, and art and cake. Is it really 5 years since the best birthday present I ever had: your brilliant, joyful musical Paintbox Jane? Thank you so very much.
Lots of love to you and Kate, Jane
Phil Minton Dear Mike,
There are so many memories of our touring together. But strangely what popped up first into my consciousness is the time in Australia when we were invited to a barbecue by a local jazz critic and then the poor fellow chasing about a dozen Emus around the bush who had raided our gathering and nicked all the hot barbecued goodies from the fire in one organised swoop. Our host was so angry, we saw the funny side, but did not let on.
Have a very happy birthday in Dawlish and watch out for those herring gulls.
Lots of love Phil and Judith
Wills Morgan: Still creating after all these years.
Thank you for your music: your songs that I sing.
Much love to Kate and to you.
Taylor (Wills) Morgan
Bert Noglik (**): Mike Westbrook has not only incorporated some of the best minds in jazz in the UK into his bands, he has also given European jazz its own sound. The way he has managed to absorb the very essence from the American pioneers, and then moved forward innovatively to reflect European culture from the perspective of a jazz-inspired musician is without parallel anywhere. His work, combining the best from the two worlds, has created one of its own. Here, music and art, sound and poetry, complement and sustain each other. In his inspirational collaboration with Kate Westbrook, works have been created that, for all their diversity and richness, represent what amounts to a genre. Just as Mike often took Duke’s Birthday as the opportunity to give concerts, today, on his birthday, it is in sincerest gratitude that we salute Mike Westbrook.
Chris Parker: Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns of the Day! Both your past work and the work that continues to lift all our spirits through the lockdown (https://www.westbrookjazz.co.uk/pictureshow/Index.shtml) is an unending source of joy and inspiration. Long may you continue to prosper.
Dominique Pifarély: We have been celebrating music and friendship together for the last 37 years… I am so happy to have this opportunity to tell you how grateful I am, and how much I hope to get back to this very soon ! Happy birthday, dear Mike.
Graham Russell: I have had the honour and pleasure of playing with Mike since 1984 on many different projects.
He has been my mentor and inspiration , and not only an amazing composer and arranger but a beautiful, gentle man with a heart that is huge. We have laughed and cried together and he somehow always gets the best out of me. I would like to thank him and Kate (from the bottom of my heart) for showing me so much love and wonderful music.
Mike is a legend of the highest order.
Happy 85th Birthday my friend. Love Graham xxx
Alyn Shipton:Hi Mike
Very best wishes for today (***). It seems an eon ago that we wandered through Oxford in 1973 with the early version of the Brass Band for the May Fly festival, after which you, Phil, Lol and Paul played that impromptu concert at my college in the evening. Those days were great fun and I am so glad our paths have continued to cross, from the majestic performance of Glad Day in the Wilton Church in Salisbury (the best version I’ve ever heard) to presenting Bar Utopia on Radio 3. I can’t claim to have written your best liner notes, but it has always been a huge privilege to have been a tiny part of your and Kate’s musical universe for so many years.
John Surman:Happy Birthday Mike!
When we were fumbling our way through “Lullaby of the Leaves” in that damp cellar in The Plymouth Arts Centre all those years ago I doubt that either of us could have imagined the many adventures which lay ahead.
Congratulations on all the wonderful music that you have created over the years and thank you for your inspiration in those early days, without which my life might have taken a much less exciting path, John Surman
Karen Street: Dear Mike
Very best wishes on your 85th birthday which under normal circumstances would have probably have been celebrated with a gig to two! I can remember your first phone call to me asking if I would join your Big Band Rossini, a band full of extraordinary musicians all which had a huge influence on me. Since then you have involved me in many of your incredible projects. You were also the person who encouraged me to record a solo CD which set me on another path. Happy Birthday Mike and thank you for being a part of my life, Karen
Stan Sulzmann: A very happy 85th Birthday Mike, it’s a long way from the Old Place days ! I remember the sextet well from gigs at the Old Place and one that stuck in my mind I think in Guildford with Dave Holland depping for Harry Miller. Keep having fun. Best wishes, Stan Sulzmann
Chris Topley: My first encounter with Mike Westbrook playing live was with the Brass Band in the early seventies. I was hooked. I’ve followed everything from Big Band to Duo and Mike’s solo piano. A unique voice. I can’t imagine life without Westbrook Music. In his and Kate’s work, I’ve enjoyed everything from the profound to the ridiculous and have been moved to tears by both.
85 Mike? I can’t believe it. How did that happen so soon? Your work is always original and inventive and every new piece takes us somewhere surprising.
Thank you for all the outstanding music over the years Mike, lap up all the praise in this ‘bouquet of LJN birthday wishes’ today, and have a great birthday.
Marcus Vergette: Mike’s individual quality and sustained invention over a long career as a musician/composer is inspiring, and a source of great joy. However the greatest pleasure is to be in one of his bands. Somehow he has a way without seeming to say anything, to draw something out of you as a player that you didn’t know you could do. Thank you Mike.
Alan Wakeman: Well, Mike, we’ve spent a few of our respective birthdays together over the years, I’ve been to a few of your celebrations and a few of mine have been on your gigs. The last one was an ‘Abbey Road’ in France where you told me to start the encore and while I played and wondered what was going on, the band slowly appeared and launched into ‘Happy Birthday’ (does Michael Jackson really own the copyright to everything that was played that night?) Who’d have thought when I first met you in 1965 (?) – in my school uniform – we’d be celebrating your 85th birthday in the middle of a global pandemic unable to have either a party or a gig! Oh well – Many Happy Returns!!
John Warren:Happy Birthday Mike. Thank you for the original and innovative body of work that has enriched the British music scene for over half a century. And my personal thanks for your generosity in welcoming me into your world – the first gig with the Concert Band is one of my fondest musical memories.. Your music and the personal connections I made in your band have resonated throughout my life. John Warren
Pete Whyman:Dear Mike…from The Ass to the Uncommon Orchestra and for all the joy and laughter that occurred in between, and, obviously all that is to follow I thank you both so much.
Happy Birthday Mike, Pete W
Richard Williams: From a quintet gig at Nottingham University in 1968 to a solo piano concert at Kings Place in 2016, it’s been a privilege to hear so much wonderful Westbrook music in person. Warmest congratulations, Mike, on your 85th birthday. Thanks for all the music you’ve given us, in so many shapes and sizes. And, in the hope of much more to come, many happy returns. Richard Williams
Matthias Winckelmann: Congratulations dear Mike, just do not stop giving great music to the world. My label Enja Records has been involved for a long time with it, starting with his tribute to the Beatles Off Abbey Road.
His range of music includes the finest musicians of the UK, like John Surman, Kenny Wheeler, Phil Minton, Harry Becket and so many more, like his wife the fine vocalist Kate Westbrook. His music earned many international prizes from many countries.
I had the pleasure to meet Mike several times in London and once in Munich, will never forget when we were involved filming Off Abbey Road in London.
Thank you Mike for your great contribution to the joy of music.
Norma Winstone: Mike has always pioneered unusual and imaginative projects. My first experience of this was being invited to take part in his piece “Earthrise” in 1969 which was followed by many daring and often hilarious ventures, one based on the Mayan calendar, which lasted – if my memory serves me correctly – a whole weekend! Thank you, Mike for giving me and many other jazz musicians such opportunities for freedom and experimentation. Many happy returns!
With love and fond memories, Norma.
(+) With sincerest thanks to Jane Mann and Chris Topley
(*) Alex Dutilh’s show Open Jazz on France Musique on 22 March 2021 has a Mike Westbrook sequence.
(**) Bert Noglik’s radio show profiling Kate Westbrook is HERE
(***) Alyn Shipton’s Jazz Record Requests on BBC Radio 3 on 21 March 2021 celebrates the birthday
LINKS: Jamie Harber interviewed Mike Westbrook for Jazz South
The Westbrook Moving Picture Show
Categories: Birthday Greetings, Feature/Interview
Hi Mike, since we met at a Jon Hiseman and Barbara Thompson party it has been my absolute pleasure to be a part of your remarkable projects. You first put your faith in me having me play your Blues for a Blue Earth that you wrote for Improvising Violinist, String Quartet, Piano and String Orchestra… A three movement adventure I’ll never forget… To be a part of The Westbrook Blake (Glad Day) since you re-worked it as a choral version has also been an absolute pleasure taking me to countries and musical destinations I previously had never expected to find myself. Many many happy returns Mike with love from Billy and family.
I don’t know if you remember me. Many years ago I had the pleasure to produce a live performance of your William Blake settings for Belgian Dutch Speaking Radio 3 at deSingel in Antwerp. Around 2000 I was able to invite you again for a performance of Platterback, this time at the Palais des Beaux Arts, now called Bozar, in Brussels. Ten years ago I retired as a jazz & literature producer at Radio 3, now called Klara ( = c(k)classical radio). We, my wife and I, remember you and mrs. Kate Westbrook very well. It was nice to have you here, to take care of you and your musicians, and to be able to introduce our listeners to your music. Especially the Blake-concert is well remembered, not in the least by the members of the radio choir who couldn’t understand how you could make so much music with so little music written down! We also remember the talks we had after the concert at Bozar with other guests Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin. A few days ago I read that Franz Liszt once said that every new composition should at least contain one chord that’s never heard before and I told my wife that you once showed me the famous Westbrook chord, but that you did it so quickly that it was impossible for me to see the notes – so I’ll never be able to repeat it to someone or to use it … I hope you both are doing fine. I wish you a very happy 85th birthday and many more good years. Sincerely. Marc & Annemie
Some lovely words here from friends and acquaintances far and near. With his visionary music, his warmth and humanity it’s not surprising that Mike has won the admiration and affection of so many people. I have a few memories of my own to throw into the mix.
The first time I heard Mike’s music was when Portrait (from the Celebration album) was played on BBC’s Jazz Record Requests one Saturday lunchtime in 1967. The combination of rich, romantic balladry and explosive free playing blew my teenage mind and opened many doors.
The first time I saw him live – in 1968 , when the Concert Band played Marching Song, clinched it – I’d never experienced a performance like it. Since then I’ve been to as many Westbrook gigs as possible. They never fail to inspire, and Kate and Mike have become true friends.
When Theresa and I married (1987) they turned up and gave a spirited rendition of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March on tenor horn and tuba while the guests filed into our reception.
For over 20 years I edited their newsletter the Smith’s Academy Informer. Before going to press we would have extensive phone conversations, Mike patiently correcting my many typos, or discussing the placement of commas in some of our lengthier sentences.
So, he’s 85 today, still at the cutting edge – witness the remotely recorded Says the Duke, where state-of-the-art technology was used to cast new perspectives on Mike’s first inspiration, Duke Ellington. And we all look forward to the day when live music returns and the Westbrook’s take to the road again.
Meanwhile,Mike, have a very happy birthday – but don’t forget to complete your Census form!
Happy Birthday Mike, Its been more than an honour and a privilege to have been in the band for the last 8 years. I have learned to be a musician, to understand properly what music is. Starting out as the bands Film Maker, then Guitarist, Recording Engineer, Photographer, Live Sound Engineer and most recently Recording , Mixing and Mastering ‘Says The Duke’ I have been able to use ever bit of my creative abilities. Add on to this that I started out as a fan and that I listen to more Mike Westbrook music for pleasure than any other Jazz artist. I look forward to us being on stage together once again, the Trip to Italy will be the greatest time of my life.
We also received this message today 21 March from Andy Grappy:
Dear Mike, you have been such a guiding light in my musical career. Your musicality, knowledge and respect for all the musicians you work with, has not only been an inspiration for me , but for countless others. Your are responsible some of the musical highlights of my career, and I wish you a Happy Birthday with love and gratitude. Cheers Mike!
Thank you, Mike, for so much wonderful music over the years. Always original, always going your own way, always hugely ambitious, always rooted in the great jazz traditions. Happy birthday from Ann and me.
Mike Westbrook has responded to everyone who has written, as follows:
I am deeply touched by your birthday messages. I was honoured
and humbled by your generous comments.
But you give me too much credit. If I have helped to give a platform to such wonderfully talented musicians, I have been rewarded many times over.
Its a reciprocal arrangement.
As Duke put it “They play the licks, I get the kicks!”
Since Jazz is a collective process, we each contribute what we do best.
As a composer I rely on the skill and creativity of the
people in the band to turn the dream into reality.
I was lucky to come up in a time when Jazz was artist-led. Then the music business had to struggle to keep up.
Nowadays Jazz often has to fight to make its voice heard in the market place.
We’ve all had battles along the way..
I feel blessed that Kate and I have the pleasure of your company,
dear fellow musicians and supporters, on this journey.
We have shared many innovative and enjoyable musical adventures.
And we ain’t finished yet!
Asked the meaning of jazz, Duke Ellington once said “Having fun with freedom of expression”
– a typically flip definition.
But can anyone think of a better one?
Till we meet again
Belated Birthday wishes Mike. I have just seen your great news.
Speak soon. Bibi Griffiths