COMPOSERS: Mike Westbrook
LABELS: ASC Records
ALBUM TITLE: Mike Westbrook
PERFORMER: Mike Wesbrook (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ASCCD166
Somewhat like his idol Duke Ellington, Westbrook’s work with large ensembles has been so successful (critically and artistically if not commercially) that his piano playing gets less attention than it deserves. His last album and tour was with the 21-piece Uncommon Orchestra. Shortly after that daunting logistical enterprise ended he visited the other end of the spectrum with this solo recording.
There’s a predominantly melancholic, or at least contemplative, cast to the set, which intersperses original pieces by Westbrook and his wife and artistic partner Kate with tunes by Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Lennon-McCartney, Bessie Smith and two familiar gems rendered fresh from the Great American Songbook. Some are so thoroughly yet sensitively transformed that you’d hardly guess they weren’t devised there and then specifically for this cohesive recital. Westbrook’s playing is intimate, restrained, reflective, introspective and deceptively simple, moulding 20 disparate sources into a beautiful and beguiling whole.