25 marzo 2017

Mike Hobart (Financial Times) e Jane 'Paintbox Jane' Mann (LondonJazz) esaltano entrambi il virtuoso ritrovo di Mike Westbrook e Jonathan Gee allo Steinway 2 Piano Festival la settimana scorsa, presso il londinese Pizza Express: "The annual two-piano Steinway Festival combines strong-character stylists with minimal preparation and high hopes that a spark will ignite. Contrasts are highlighted, songbooks shared and both players tend to raise their game. There was no coasting in this performance, but for the most part Mike Westbrook and Jonathan Gee performed singly and, when they did join forces, the balance of the repertoire was tilted firmly in Westbrook’s direction. Even one of Gee’s solo spots drew on his counterpart’s back catalogue. Westbrook’s intensely personal vision is usually articulated through orchestral arrangement, and at this gig he almost seemed to play every part that an orchestra might play. His pared-down piano style fuses the percussive resonance of Duke Ellington with elements of the blues, dissonant modernism and vaudeville into intense narratives in which every chord has character and even silence has a role to play."


24 marzo 2017

Dopo The Original Peter Tony Staveacre estrae dagli archivi delle sue antiche produzioni per la BBC - qui una coproduzione con Helen Fraser - un altro prezioso documentario westbrookiano, stavolta dedicato a uno dei lavori più celebri del compositore, The Cortège, ripreso all'epoca di alcune sue presentazioni in concerto nel Regno Unito pochi giorni prima delle sessioni di registrazione in studio. Il filmato, diretto da Jonathan Fulford, venne presentato in Omnibus (BBC One) nel febbraio 1982. Della Mike Westbrook Orchestra facevano parte allora Phil Minton, Dave Plews, Guy Barker, Dick Pearce, Malcolm Griffiths, Alan Sinclair, Dave Powell, Chris Hunter, Phil Todd, Chris Biscoe, Lindsay Cooper, Brian Godding, Georgie Born, Steve Cook e Dave Barry, oltre naturalmente a Kate e Mike.

Quando l'album venne ristampato da Enja nel 2011 in versione rimasterizzata - in precedenza Enja (2CD, 1993) e prima ancora Original Records (3LP, 1982) - scrisse Duncan Heining: "The Westbrooks have made many beautiful and profound records but this is my favourite. That I can say that without forgetting Metropolis, Citadel/Room 315, Marching Song, The Westbrook Blake, Chanson Irresponsable, Mama Chicago, London Bridge, Art Wolf, The Westbrook Rossini or On Duke’s Birthday is a measure of the man’s music. How many jazz composers could point to a career as rich in masterpieces as that? One always feels with a Westbrook & Westbrook project that every detail has been addressed in order to make the most complete artistic statement. The first emphasis is on the music, the second to ensure it allows the expression of something beyond itself. Here the idea of a New Orleans funeral procession is a metaphor for life’s journey. Shame then that Enja have truncated the original explanatory sleevenotes to their detriment. No matter, you can still revel in the righteousness of Cordoba, Westbrook’s magnificent setting of Lorca, or the glorious Santarcangelo with Hubert Parry’s arrangement of Jerusalem at its heart. There are splendours too in Democratie and July ’79, an affirmation of the natural world in Erme Estuary and so much, more beauty in this CD. Should there be a heaven and should I get an invite, may this be the music to carry me there."


23 marzo 2017

Tutto in una notte. Lo scorso 4 marzo, a Londra, mentre al Barbican si celebrava il fragoroso incanto collettivo di This Is Not This Heat, al Cafe Oto si faceva più o meno altrettanto nei confronti di Peter Hammill, a compimento di una residenza artistica di tre giorni intensa e istruttiva, forte di cinquantadue diverse canzoni di cui almeno sei nuovissime. "And so what have we learned?", si chiede uno dei massimi conoscitori hammilliani, Richard Rees Jones. "That Hammill’s lifelong preoccupations – reason, memory, the unravelling of time and the choices we make – are deep, troubling ones. That there is something primal and atavistic about the way he confronts them in song. And that fifty years after he began, his music remains as visionary and essential as ever."